Paul Kalambayi is ready to add an extra defensive option for the run-in – and Mark Robinson has reiterated the importance of everyone being ready to step forward at a crucial time.
Our squad headed out to South Devon today in preparation for the Good Friday clash at Plymouth Argyle, a match which offers the opportunity to climb out of the League One relegation zone after the late drama against Northampton.
Kalambayi joined in full training this week after shaking off an ankle ligament injury, and the defender is one of the players in our squad with experience of that Great Escape in 2019. Alex Woodyard misses the trip to Plymouth as he serves the first of his two-match suspension after picking up his 10th booking of the season in our last game.
Speaking ahead of Friday’s match, Robbo said: “We are getting back now to two games a week and I keep going on about the intensity that we want to play at. We’ve reached it in certain games, including Blackpool and Charlton, but we haven’t reached it in others. If the players aren’t doing it they will come out and I will put others in who will. Or, if they need to freshen up because they physically can’t do it, then we need to do that as well. As I keep saying to the lads, it’s a squad game, and we are all in it together. Everybody must be ready to play their part.
“Paul Kalambayi could now be back in the frame potentially. He has been back in full training. Although he is a young player, he has had experience of playing in this situation.”
The Dons will face a Plymouth side promoted into League One last season. Manager Ryan Lowe guided Plymouth up and earlier this season his attractive style of play helped the Green Army into the top half of the table. However, a run of just one win in seven has them in 16th place, 13 points above the Dons having played two games more. Robbo is impressed by the style of play produced by Plymouth, a side that drew 4-4 against Wimbledon in the reverse fixture, played at QPR.
“I am an admirer of anyone who plays attacking football because it takes a certain amount of guts to play possession-based exciting football,” added Robbo. “People say you can’t play it in the lower divisions, but there are lots of teams doing it now, where it’s not predictable. It’s not about me and the way I like to play, it’s about what we need to do as a club to grow this football club. We are a million miles away from where I see us going in the future, in terms of the way our attacking play looks, but if we are going to keep our best youngsters, it is the only way forward, otherwise we will lose them. If we are going to get the best possible loans and attract players, it’s the only way to have sustainability moving forward.
“We are fully aware of where we need to improve, we know that there needs to be more of a purpose behind our football sometimes, so that we carry more of a threat, like we did against Charlton. These things take time. In the second-half on Saturday I was just disappointed because we didn’t impose our identity on them, and we didn’t do enough of what we are capable of doing. On a positive, we restricted them to one shot on goal, which was the penalty. There were still positives. Performances are not always going to be exactly where you want them, but we just go back and keep looking at where we need to improve. We need to keep that really solid foundation because that’s what we’ve got now.”
A positive aspect for Wimbledon since Robbo was appointed as Head Coach is the number of late goals scored in matches. Our top scorer Joe Pigott was the man to come up with the goods in the victory against Northampton – and Robbo wants to see more of those ‘scruffy’ goals.
“The late goals come from a purpose, because we are all together, more than anything. When I first started as Head Coach I spoke about, ‘Why are we here? Why are we together?’ I think people forget why they are playing football and they forget why they are in football. Our big thing was to come together and say, ‘Why are we doing this?’ When you have a purpose behind everything you do it keeps driving you on, it keeps pushing you on, and that comes from everyone: staff, players, and everyone in the building.
“I think Joe’s form has been really good. I felt he was excellent against Charlton with the way he brought people into play. The great thing was that he got himself into an area on Saturday – I know it was a deflection – that was key. It's something we need to work on and get better at – getting players into those areas where there’s a bit of chaos, and then you are going to score more goals like that. I was really pleased that it was a scruffy goal. If you look at our winner against Gillingham, those goals don’t happen very often. It’s great when they do happen because everyone remembers them, but most goals are scored in the penalty area. That doesn’t mean that we sling predictable balls in because if that was the way everyone would just do that. It’s an area we have to do better in, so it was great that Joe got that scruffy finish.”
In the build-up to Plymouth, we also caught up with in-form midfielder George Dobson, who has fitted in well since joining us on loan from Sunderland. Click on the link below to watch Rob Cornell's interview with George.