By Rob Cornell
Neal Ardley will give fans the chance to catch a first glimpse of two of his new signings in pre-season action, when Championship side Reading visit on Saturday (12.00 noon).
“Tom King is fine and he’ll play a part and so will Mitch Pinnock, but James Hanson (groin) won’t be risked,” said Neal in an interview with our premium iFollow Dons channel, which can be seen via the link above. “He’s missed a few sessions this week and he won’t be involved in Saturday’s game. We’ll build him up and hopefully he’ll be involved next week.”
Neal may also take the opportunity to look at former Newcastle United and Port Vale centre-back Remie Streete, who has been training with the Dons.
“He’s had some injury problems, but we quite liked him when he was with Port Vale a couple of seasons ago,” said Neal. “He had to go off and get his problems sorted last season. He’s come in and been with the boys for a week, so he’s a week behind, but he’s come through it really well. He might get some playing time and possibly on Tuesday (when Wimbledon visit Woking). We’re having a good look at him and seeing where his levels are.
“Egli Kaja hasn’t trained much during the week and he joined in today, so we might have to limit his time. Anthony Hartigan hasn’t been fit since we returned for pre-season. Hopefully he’ll start training next week and we can get him back up to speed. We’ve got a couple of niggles, so we’ll be ‘youngish’ in the game. We’ve set the bar high with three tough home games, but we should improve steadily as we go on.
The squad have been working hard in the baking hot conditions for the visit of Paul Clement’s side. It's the first of six friendlies this month, ahead of the big kick-off at Fleetwood Town in August.
“Normally we give 45 minutes to each of them, but in this game, there might be some 60 and some 30 minutes. We’ll try and make sure we’ll be as competitive as we can be,” explained Neal.
“We always try and do two weeks in the build-up to the first friendly and the boys have come back in decent shape. We’ve progressed it. They’ve done quite a bit of eleven versus eleven. They’ve built that up from 30 minutes to 35. We had an extremely hard day with them on Tuesday and they were very tired and still had that in their legs today. We’ve begun our preparation for the game and our principles of play.
“The hard part has been trying to get the ‘sting’ out of the training pitches. We haven’t got pop-up sprinklers at the training ground and as staff we’re constantly having to move the sprinklers around. Although the grass is nice and green and there’s a zip to it, just trying to get the ‘sting’ out of the surface is the hard part.
“There’s things we’ve worked on tactically. If we can see signs that the boys are grasping that, within the shape that we want to play, then that will be a good thing. We’ve done a bit today without the ball, we’ve done loads with the ball over the two weeks. We want to see some of those patterns coming out and some of the ways we work without the ball. That would be a positive.
“Again, I want to see the younger players show that they are grasping some of the stuff and showing they can handle the step up. It’s an important time for one or two of them. You want them to show that they are learning and that the individual work that you do with them is starting to come out in games.”