AFC Wimbledon face a difficult test at League One high-flyers Bristol Rovers on Thursday and Glyn Hodges is demanding a faster start from his players after the defeat at Tranmere.
The Dons take on a Rovers side fourth in the table at the Memorial Stadium and a passionate home support will be hoping that new manager Ben Garner can mark his first game in charge with a positive outcome. Rovers are unbeaten in 12 games in all competitions, their last defeat coming back on 22 October when they were beaten 2-0 at home by Bolton Wanderers. Wimbledon will be aiming for a similar outcome and to exploit any teething troubles following the shock departure of previous manager Graham Coughlan to Mansfield Town.
Our manager said that Wimbledon will head west with a similar squad to Saturday as Paul Kalambayi, Anthony Wordsworth, Kwesi Appiah, Michael Folivi, Will Nightingale, and Scott Wagstaff are all still out injured.
Below are quotes from both managers ahead of the game, plus stats, and a look back at previous matches.
“When we played Bristol Rovers at home earlier this year they showed that they were more experienced than us and they dominated us. We will be trying our best and our players need to be on the front foot from the very start. I expect it to be a high-tempo game and we can’t afford to be caught by surprise, which I felt we were on Saturday.
“I can see it being a similar type of game. At least we’ve had a rehearsal for it and we know what to expect. I will be saying to the boys that they have to gamble, to read things, and to be on the front foot, which we did better in the second-half on Saturday. In the first-half we didn’t gamble in the midfield in trying to win the knock downs and the next balls.
“We are under no illusions about the next three games being difficult. I spoke previously about trying to pick points up during the Christmas period, but the other clubs will be thinking the same. We know it’s a difficult away game followed by two home matches, but we will aim to go on another unbeaten run as soon as possible.
“There will be no players coming back into the squad after injury, so it will be similar to Saturday. We had Ossama Ashley with us and he travelled with the squad to Tranmere. He has only recently come back from a cruciate ligament operation, so he has probably been pushed forward a little bit quicker than we expected. Ash has worked so hard to get back with the group and he’s training very well. He didn’t quite make the bench on Saturday, but that’s the squad we’ve got at the moment and it’s all hands to the pump. We need everybody. Tommy Wood got his chance on Saturday and he will stay here now, rather than going on loan. With the run of games coming up he will get more opportunities.”
“I am over the moon, I am delighted to be here. It’s a fantastic club with great support and it’s a wonderful opportunity for me. I think we can build something special here. Everyone speaks highly of the supporters here and we want to move forward together.
“I have a really good platform to build on here, so that’s full credit to the players and staff, and everyone that has contributed this season. The club are in a really strong position, so it’s a case of trying to build on that and to push on. It’s been a long process for me in getting to this point, I’ve been coaching for a long time. A lot of preparation has gone into getting to this stage and I’m delighted that my chance has come at such a great club as Rovers. I think the club has got great potential to move forward.
“I have watched virtually all of the games this season, including the two in the last week, so I’m up to speed on the squad and where I think it can go forward. Now it’s a case of getting to know the players and getting to work with them on the grass. We have a hectic Christmas period coming up so I will be getting to know the players quickly. The strengths of the group are clear. It looks from the outside that we have a really strong dressing room with good leadership and good characters. They are giving everything. The game on Saturday was an example of that with the effort and commitment that was put in. That’s the foundations I expect and I will be just trying to build on that. I will be trying to change the way we play a little bit and put some ideas across, but that will be a gradual process because I don’t want to lose the strengths that we’ve got.”
Form guide (last six in all competitions, starting with most recent)
Last time out
Rovers 0-0 Peterborough
Tranmere 1-0 Wimbledon
Rovers – Jonson Clarke-Harris (10)
Wimbledon – Marcus Forss (10)
The Dons have won just once at the Memorial Stadium in seven previous visits since the club was reformed. That victory came on 18 November 2017 with Andy Barcham, Harry Forrester, and Cody McDonald all on target in a 3-1 win. Rovers won by the same score-line in September, a match that turned when Marcus Forss was red carded for a second bookable offence, the first received after he opened the scoring. The Dons have earned two other victories against Rovers since promotion back to the league, the first of those a 3-1 win back in October 2013. Joe Pigott scored a vital last-gasp winner against Rovers on 17 February 2018, a goal that proved to be important in the battle to stay up. Take a look below at the highlights from that game.
Wimbledon supporters can pay on the day at the following prices:
Adult - £19
Over 65/Under-21 - £15
Under-16 - £10
Under-11 - £5
Over 65/Under-21 - £19
Under-16 - £10
Under-11 - £5
Please note that the terraced area for away supporters is uncovered at the Memorial Stadium.
For those not travelling to Bristol Rovers, you can stay in touch with the game by tuning in to WDON commentary with Mikey T and Rob Cornell reporting from the Memorial Stadium. Visit our iFollow channel to gain access.