By Chris Slavin
Neal Ardley provided his end of season report after today's draw against Bury and he believes that fans, players, and staff really pulled together to help the club stay up.
Though disappointed with the final finishing position of 18th in League One, the manager praised the unity shown during the run-in as Wimbledon ended the season with a seven-match unbeaten run.
"First and foremost, we are not sitting here delighted with how the season has gone, and we are not saying that 18th in the league is what we aspired for. In that respect we obviously need to improve and we know that, but I think with seven games to go and the situation we were in, to find the resolve, the character, and the passion that we did, I think we should be really proud of that. The end of the season has been a high, but I think going forward we would like to get better.
"Over the last six weeks the fans have been absolutely phenomenal. I think we've seen in the last six weeks how much the club has come together. The players showed character and heart. The fans have shown it, the club have shown it, but other teams haven't and they are the ones who have ended up going down. Every year I try to improve and most years the club has gone forward with its position, from the bottom of League 2 to promotion. They always talk about second season syndrome. Obviously, Northampton have faced it and they were Champions when we got promoted. The second season for us has been tough, the league was stronger than ever this season.
"We cannot disregard the League One safety element, I don't think we're in that position yet as a club to think that we should be anything other than trying to secure our status. It was similar to the early years that I had in League 2 as well. If you look at Terry Brown, he did a great job in the first year in League 2, but it then it became tougher in his second season and we stayed up on the last day. It's a similar theme this year. Hopefully we can try to progress slowly, but surely. It's hard with recruitment and with the quality of players you want to bring in, but we are pushing in the right direction."
The Dons were pegged back by Bury in the second-half today, but Neal was very pleased with the first-half display and he felt that injuries to Lyle Taylor, Kwesi Appiah and Egli Kaja upset his side's rhythm.
"Today was a celebration," added Neal. "You can pick the bones out of the season further down the line, but we battled to get where we were and we were safe before the game and we could enjoy the occasion. We wanted to win it and I thought in the first-half we were outstanding. I watched Kwesi and Lyle and I thought, 'if only we had that all season, it could have been a different season'. Obviously, we lost Lyle to injury, then we lost Kwesi, who felt tightness in his hamstring. Egli's thigh was tight too. I thought at a time when they were having a right go to get back into the game we lost our momentum and it ended up being too much for us."
The full interview with Neal is available to watch via the link to our iFollow channel above.