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Preview: Neal aims to keep Dons on the right track with QPR up next

AFC Wimbledon host Championship opposition in third pre-season friendly

13 July 2018

Neal Ardley is looking for his squad to continue an encouraging pre-season so far when the Dons face Championship opposition on Saturday (3 pm kick-off).

Tomorrow's match is the first of two home friendlies against teams higher up the pyramid with Premier League Brighton & Hove Albion coming up next Saturday. In between those two games, Neal is taking the squad on a pre-season training camp to South Wales, as preparations for the 2018/19 campaign gather pace.

It's been a busy week of transfer activity at AFC Wimbledon with Anthony Wordsworth, Scott Wagstaff, and Tennai Watson all joining the club, but the manager said that Saturday's match will come too soon for two of those players. Neal also talked about getting the right balance of youth and experience in his squad.

"Scott and Anthony have worked hard and run hard over the summer, but you cannot replicate changing direction and getting back into training," said Neal. "Yesterday was a feel for that and today they will start doing some fitness work, they will not be available for the weekend. We will be aiming to have a good next week on tour and hopefully they will be involved as we go forward. James Hanson is running with Jason Moriarty and Anthony Hartigan is now back working, but they are in the same boat as Scott and Anthony (Wordsworth). These guys need a good work-out with Jason today and then they will be on tour. Hopefully, if we can get them into training next week they can start picking up their minutes.

"We said that we wanted to try and reduce the average age of the squad, that we would try to get young and hungry, and we are still working on some deals. We do need to make sure that we supplement it all, you cannot go with all 19-year-olds or 20-year-olds. We are making sure that we bring in that know-how to go with the energy that the others are going to bring. We are hopeful that Anthony and Scott, alongside players like Meadesy, Tom Soares and Liam Trotter, will bring that and then you've got all these young guys buzzing around them. Hopefully, there is more to come – more young and hungry players – and it will be exciting. The boys have started really well in pre-season. When you bring in new faces, albeit guys who need to play a bit of catch-up, it always gives everyone a lift."

Speaking about the challenge facing Wimbledon against Steve McClaren's QPR, Neal added: "We will need to be competitive in this game and the one against Brighton. We will be playing against exceptionally good teams with excellent coaches and managers. I was quite pleasantly surprised with how we did against Reading and then against Woking we were very good for an hour. The next test is, 'can we try to keep implementing the way we want to go about our work against a very good team?' If we are competitive – I always want us to win every game – and we show some of the stuff we've been working on, then I will be pleased."

Saturday's opponents QPR are preparing for another season in the Championship after finishing 16th in 2017/18. Steve McClaren has taken over the reins after the departure of Ian Holloway and the former England manager made his first QPR signing recently with German centre-back Toni Leistner joining from FC Union Berlin. The new manager prioritised this position with Nedum Onuoha, Jack Robinson and James Perch having left the club.

Before tomorrow's match, QPR have a match at Staines Town tonight, and they come into the double-header on the back of a 3-0 win at Barnet on Tuesday. Ebere Eze, Matt Smith, and Ilias Chair scored the goals.

Tickets, starting at £10 for adults, are available to buy in advance (collect on the day) from our online ticket shop. You can also pay on the day at the same prices. Of course, it's also the AFC Wimbledon Beer Festival on Saturday. See our previous article all about this event, which you can buy tickets for in advance or on the day.

The picture above shows Kwesi Appiah getting in a header during the friendly victory at Woking (photo by Stephen Wright, Pro Sports Images).

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