Wally Downes has called on his players to replicate the strength of character that proved to be so important in the survival stakes last season.
Following the Great Escape last time around, The Dons start the new campaign with a match against one of the League One promotion favourites and Paul Warne’s men are likely to provide a stern test at the Cherry Red Records Stadium on Saturday. Our manager knows that a Wimbledon performance full of the same grit and determination that was so apparent at the end of last season is likely to be required again.
Goalkeeper Joe McDonnell has been signed on a short-term basis and he will go straight into the squad for the match against Rotherham. Take a look below at a short video interview with Joe, including a fun intro from Anthony Wordsworth!
Wally Downes said that it’s too early for Adam Roscrow to make his debut as he has only just recovered from a groin injury. Wordsworth is ruled out with an Achilles tendon injury.
For Rotherham, club record signing Freddie Ladapo could make his league debut. The 26-year-old signed from Plymouth in June, and he should lead the forward line for The Millers on Saturday. Other new signings for Rotherham include Newcastle United playmaker Dan Barlaser and experienced Wigan midfielder Shaun MacDonald. Left-back Trevor Clarke, who was signed from Shamrock Rovers, is a doubt though after he suffered a training ground injury. Danish goalkeeper Daniel Iversen is on hand for a debut, having made a season-long loan switch from Leicester.
“With the amount of new players we've had come through the door, it’s about how the players gel together. The message is constant and I’m not saying anything different from what I did last season. I just want us to do what we did after I came in last season, but to do it better. The responsibility for that is firmly on the players. I haven’t changed my message, the work we’ve done has been the same. It’s about the players having the ability to start on a level playing field and be strong enough as a group to do what we did last season and give ourselves more of a chance of success.
“Rotherham are a very big side with no player under 6ft and they have a couple of 6 ft 4 inch players, so I think they will be looking to be very dominant in the air. They are very direct from what we’ve seen of them and they’ve made a great fist of it in the Championship when they’ve been in that division in recent seasons. When they’ve come down, they’ve gone straight back up again. Rotherham are very strong side in this division and they are very close to being a regular Championship team. They’ve added to the squad in the summer and I think they will be a big threat in the division this season.”
Though the squad have been worked hard in the build-up to 2019/20, there's still been time for fun and games at the training ground! Take a look at the video below for an example of this.
“We’re aiming for the top six. Nigel Clough said the other day that there are 18 teams who think they’ll get in the top six – so 12 of us are going to be disappointed. There’s some really good teams in League One this year. I might be wrong but I don’t think the Championship is as strong this year as it was last year, but I think League One is.
“For us to get into the top six will be a big ask. Obviously if we finish seventh, and you ask me has it been a successful season, then no it hasn’t because we haven’t achieved what we tried to do. But then last season we tried to survive and we didn’t, but at the end of the season I didn’t have any shame. We gave it our best. If there’s six better teams than us, and above us, there’s no complaints from me. But hopefully there isn’t six. Pre-season has gone really well and we’ve recruited pretty well. I’ve been happy with what the lads have done in pre-season, but more importantly I’ve been happy with how they’ve got on because they’ve got to spend the next 10 months together.”
Rotherham 2-0 Wimbledon (2 February 2018)
An early goal from former Dons loanee Michael Smith put the hosts ahead in a season that ended with promotion to the Championship for Rotherham. Though Wimbledon threatened an equaliser in the second-half through Joe Pigott, an injury-time goal from David Ball sealed victory for Rotherham. It was Wimbledon’s first defeat of 2018 after an impressive points haul in January and The Dons went onto seal League One survival in the penultimate match of the season at Doncaster.
Wimbledon 3-1 Rotherham (17 October 2017)
A stunning hat-trick from Lyle Taylor earned a deserved victory for Wimbledon. Taylor put The Dons in front under the lights at the Cherry Red Records Stadium, but Rotherham came back into it and equalised through Joe Newell in the 70th minute. There was no stopping Taylor on the night though and he struck in the 85th minute to put Wimbledon back in front, before netting again in stoppage time.