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Nick’s challenge to young Dons with last-16 place up for grabs

Squad update ahead of Tuesday night's match at Plough Lane

7 December 2020

Nick Daws has urged Wimbledon’s young talents to make the most of a big opportunity against Arsenal Under-21s on Tuesday night (6.00 pm kick-off).

The Dons will field a strong side tomorrow night with a place in the last-16 of the national competition up for grabs – just three rounds from a potential showpiece final at Wembley. Our management are likely to make changes, as the Dons prepare for a seventh match in just 18 days, and Paul Osew is one of our young talents primed for a run-out at Plough Lane.

“I think we recognise that it’s a good opportunity,” said Nick. “We got through the group, which was the first thing, and that stage allowed the manager to make some changes, which we’ve seen, and now we’ve got to the knockout stage. From our point of view, if we can get to Wembley and hopefully supporters are back in come February or March, who wouldn’t want that? If you go out in the knockout stages you look at it slightly differently, but I know from the guys at Salford and Portsmouth how disappointed they were not to play the final last season. We will be approaching tomorrow night’s game in the proper way and trying to win.

“When you play the academy Under-21 sides you look at the players who would have been in the team, but they are out on loan, and you expect an expansive style of football with everybody comfortable on the ball, playing in a certain way, and being patient. From the five or six games we’ve watched, Arsenal have shown an ability to mix it up, and we will approach this game in the same way as we would for any league match. We will prepare as best as we can and give the boys all of the information. When they cross the white line it will be up to them.”

In the build-up to Tuesday’s game, Nick praised the attitude in training of Paul Osew, who is in contention to feature against Arsenal’s youngsters tomorrow.

“We were just talking through there in the office about Paul, and he was great in training again today,” added Nick. “Paul burst onto the scene a few weeks before I came in as Glyn’s Assistant. He made his league debut against Peterborough and he was fantastic. He stayed in the team and earned the right to be in the team ahead of Nesta, but Paul is a young player and he still has a lot of learning to do, as has Nesta. We have three quality left wing-backs, including Steve Seddon, and Paul has been the one recently who hasn’t been involved. I am sure if he gets his opportunity tomorrow he will look to take it. Every game is a learning opportunity for the young players and some of them may be playing against boys that are older than them tomorrow. From Paul’s perspective, it will be nice to see him in the starting 11, if he gets picked.

“We came through unscathed (on Saturday). There are a few bumps and bruises, as there always is, and it has been a very intense first three or four months of the season, but we have managed it well, and we are sat in the league on 20 points, which I believe is as good (at this stage of the season) since we got promoted into this league. Off the back of the previous two seasons, the start has been really tough. If someone had said to Glyn and ourselves at the start of the season that we would be on 20 points after 14 games I think everyone would have taken that. It’s a good foundation for us to build on for the Christmas period, and what’s to come in the second-half of the season. That’s great, but fundamentally it’s about the next game, and that’s the Papa John’s Trophy match against Arsenal.

“It’s been hectic, but the boys are shaping up great. The support team here have been fantastic, and we’ve managed to recover and rotate a little bit. We’ve managed to use the five subs, which has been a blessing for us, and we are looking forward to the next game.

“This competition, at certain stages, gives opportunities to younger players. Zach (Robinson) took his opportunity against Brighton earlier this season, and it will be the same against Arsenal tomorrow. Whoever is picked will have the opportunity to earn the shirt. If they do well they will have opportunities to keep the shirt. With the schedule having been so hectic, it’s been great for us to utilise the full squad.”

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