Neal Ardley said that AFC Wimbledon must show the battling qualities required for an FA Cup scrap at Haringey Borough on Friday night.
Four divisions separate Wimbledon and Haringey in the pyramid, but the Bostik Premier League club have shown plenty of spirit to earn two promotions in recent seasons through the guidance of manager Tom Loizou and they will be aiming to cause an upset in front of the TV cameras.
Speaking during a pre-match interview for iFollow, Neal said: “The hardest thing to do anywhere is to win promotions, unless you’ve got the best team and the best budget. The hardest thing is to do it over the course of a season, it’s better than winning any cup. Straight away you have to give total respect to their manager for winning promotions, regardless of where they should have been in the league. It is hard to consistently do it over the course of a season and they’ve come through five rounds to get here, so they are doing a lot of things right. Whatever levels they’ve been at in their league games, you can imagine that they’re going to find another 35-40 per cent on top of that for this game on telly.
“Any team that gets to the first round has earned it because it’s a long process. With the money that can be involved, it’s a fantastic competition. For us to get through two rounds and get the Tottenham and Liverpool ties, they have been big deals for us in the past. We will pay them the utmost respect, we have to. There is only one reason that the TV cameras are there tomorrow night – they are looking for the magic of the FA Cup and an upset. We had it in the past. We need to have the character, focus, and desire, all those qualities to stand up to what we’re going to be, which is the favourites.
“It’s their chance to shine and they are all the elements we have to face. We need to have the character and the know-how to deal with that. The Curzon Ashton game was a unique one. Who knows what’s going to happen tomorrow night? We can prepare the team, make sure we’re up to speed with them, that we’re ready for the game, but the boys have to go out there with a really strong mentality and make sure that we put in a professional performance.”
In the full interview, which can be viewed via the link above, Neal confirmed that striker James Hanson is out with a calf injury and Will Nightingale (hip) and Rod McDonald (quad) are doubts for tomorrow’s game. Neal Ardley's men go into the match on the back of a good performance in the Checkatrade Trophy with the Dons having beaten Stevenage 4-0 on Tuesday night.
“With James Hanson, it looks like it’s going to be more of a long-term injury, so that’s disappointing for us,” added Neal. “Rod McDonald and Will Nightingale are doubts, but the rest of the squad should be available for selection, including the loan players. We will go there with a 19-man squad for tomorrow, that’s what we’ve got to go with at the moment. It’s always good when the boys put in a performance because it challenges the team and that’s perhaps something we haven’t had enough of this season. On the flip side, the Under-23s playing well can also put a bit of pressure on as well. We need to try and create that, and create it very quickly.”