Neal Ardley challenged his players to produce a performance today that displayed all the characteristics missing at Burton last week – and he was delighted with the response.
In his post-match interview for iFollow, Neal praised his players for showing the grit and determination required to grind out a 1-0 win at Gillingham.
"In the team-talk my challenge to the boys was that we got a lot of the basics wrong at Burton last week and after losing three league games on the trot I asked them, 'what is our mentality?' They all said, 'we are not going to get beaten'. I told them that we had to make sure that we did not have a soft underbelly and that what we had was all the ingredients to have a good season. I challenged them to show it today and that was everything you saw out there.
"Gillingham is a tough place to come and it's always great to win against a local side. All I have been worried about is to get the team to put in a performance for the fans to say, 'that is what we want'. Today we did not produce as much of a free-flowing football performance as we had in the past, but the grit and determination, a classic away win, is something they will probably go home happy about."
The overall team display was what pleased Neal the most, but match-winner Joe Pigott's improvement since joining Wimbledon in January earned significant praise from the manager.
"Everyone is fighting for the team," added Neal. "Joe Pigott has run himself into the ground, he could hardly move at the end, but unfortunately we had three enforced substitutions that we had to make. In the last 10 minutes the opposition are always going to have a little bit of pressure if you don't kill the game off, but I ask the question, 'how many saves did Tom King make?' It was just one in the 89th minute from a free-kick and that tells you how comfortable we were.
"It was an all-round team performance. Tom Soares and Liam Trotter dominated the midfield and the back four were excellent. We deserved the win and now we have to make sure we take all those qualities into next week and build some momentum.
"It was tough for Joe last season. He was not totally fit and ready for League One, but he still scored five goals in 12 games. I told him when he signed that we would make him a better all-round player. Joe deserves all the credit. He went away in the summer and came back fitter and stronger. We know he can score goals and when you have Kwesi, James Hanson, and Jake Jervis, he has to play well to stay in the team."
The full post-match reaction from Neal is available to watch on our iFollow channel by clicking on the link above.