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Preview: Robbo reinforces belief in players ahead of Hull challenge

Back at Plough Lane again after midweek win

26 February 2021

AFC Wimbledon will on Saturday be aiming for back-to-back victories at Plough Lane for the first time since moving into the new stadium after Jack Rudoni’s dramatic winner on Tuesday night.

Promotion contenders Hull City are sure to provide a stern test, but Head Coach Mark Robinson wants our players to believe in themselves more and to play with a freedom that was encapsulated by Rudi’s late moment of magic. Opposing manager Grant McCann has reinvigorated Hull City after relegation from the Championship last season, but a 1-0 home defeat versus Ipswich on Tuesday dented their automatic promotion hopes.

For Dons supporters of a certain vintage, the visit of Hull City to Plough Lane will bring back golden memories. A 3-1 victory in April 1986 at our old stadium in Plough Lane left the Dons on the verge of sealing promotion to the top-flight.

Almost 35 years on, the Dons will be seeking a victory for different reasons. After a remarkable rise since restarting in the Combined Counties League in 2002, precious points are needed to stay in the third tier of English football during a season that will always be remembered for our return to a new stadium at Plough Lane.

Below are quotes from both camps, plus stats, and a look at our opponents on Saturday.

Mark Robinson

“The players are all capable of more. Some of them don’t realise what they are capable of and as coaches and staff that’s what we are there to bring out. I think sometimes the monotony of going for three points takes the focus away from how good they are. That’s a big part of our job: to make them realise what good footballers they are and to give them that freedom. At the same time, you need that real solid base. The most pleasing thing for me on Tuesday night was that there was some decent football, particularly in the first-half, but we had that solid base. There were things they could have done better to take away their relentless pressure, which we didn’t do well enough, but that’s part of the learning. I felt that the players were starting to look left and right and trust each other. That’s really key as it will bring us points and allow us to progress to the next step of where we need to go.

“Hull will be a different challenge (to Gillingham), but the intensity from us has to keep growing. That’s why I keep saying to the lads that everyone has to realise that they are involved. If the intensity in a game drops I need to be able to trust four or five players to come on and lift that intensity again. With the schedule we’ve got coming up, if this is how we are going to play we need to maintain that intensity. Chris (McConnell, Sports Scientist) has been great in looking at the players and the training schedule to assess how we can lift it a bit, obviously within the limited time we have due to a run of Saturday and Tuesday matches. I got into the players yesterday because I have to make sure that those not starting at the moment are ready to step in. They can bring the levels up if anything.”

Grant McCann

“Everyone has come through the Ipswich game and the team is looking a bit stronger. Tom Eaves has trained this week, which is good. He’ll be part of the group that travels to Wimbledon and it’s pleasing to see that everyone is in good shape heading into the weekend. It’s a nice boost to have Tom back. He’s great to have around the group and he’s a very likeable guy and a good player. It’s been a bit stop-start for Eavesy with the injuries he’s picked up in both matches at Sunderland and it’s been frustrating for him. He’s been working hard and he’s looking strong so it’s nice to have him back fit and available.

“We've got 15 games left and there's a long way to go. These teams have got 17 [to play] and nothing is won in March. I think that people do jump the gun and think, 'that's it, Peterborough and Lincoln are the top two'. They may well be, but who knows. We will stay calm, we'll stay focused on our job. Those two are in the ascendancy, those two are the favourites now - of course they are - but we've got to focus on our own job, be clear in our thinking and treat every game with the same respect that we have from day one.

"We've done it [putting a run of form together] already at the start of the season. We've been on some really good runs already, so we know we are capable of it, it is just about finding that consistency and that momentum."

A bit about Hull City

An 8-0 defeat at Wigan Athletic last season summed up Hull’s Championship demise last season and Grant McCann was unable to prevent the club from spinning back to the third tier of English football for the first time in 15 years. Before two relegations in four seasons, Hull enjoyed the best spell in their history with several campaigns in the Premier League and they even had a brief spell in European competition in 2014. Northern Irishman McCann breathed new life into Hull’s fortunes at the start of this season as the Yorkshire club topped League One, but a return of just five points from the last 18 on offer has seen the Tigers drop out of the automatic promotion places. Mallik Wilkes is Hull City’s top scorer with 16 goals so far this season, former Charlton target man Josh Magennis chipping in with 11. Mallik was signed in the summer from Barnsley after impressing during a loan spell in the second half of last season.

The last meeting

Keane Lewis-Potter scored the winner in the corresponding fixture with the hosts edging it 1-0. The decisive strike came in first-half injury time after 45 minutes when Wimbledon matched the hosts. Jack Rudoni came closest to scoring for Wimbledon, the midfielder striking wide from close-range. At the other end, Josh Magennis headed just off target. Callum Reilly was denied by the keeper in the second-half as the Dons pressed, but Hull held on for the points. You can watch the highlights by clicking on the link below.

Team news

Callum Reilly is likely to return to Wimbledon’s squad for Saturday’s game after putting a hamstring injury behind him. As stated above, Hull will welcome back Tom Eaves, a striker who Wimbledon fans will know all about from his previous spell with Gillingham.

Form Guide

AFC Wimbledon WLWLLL

Hull City LDWLDL

Rewind

26 April 1986

Wimbledon 3 Fashanu (36, 60), Fairweather (37)

Hull City  1 Flounders (34)

Long-term Wimbledon fans left the ground rubbing their eyes in sheer disbelief. For so long followers of a non-league side, a twelve game unbeaten run had left their favourites on the verge of the Promised Land. Victory over Hull City meant that with four Second Division games left the Dons needed just two wins to enter the top flight for the first time. Recent signing John Fashanu was the difference as his two goals, together with a strike from Carlton Fairweather, saw the hosts home.

“We couldn’t cope with Fashanu and Cork up front,” Tigers boss Brian Horton admitted afterwards. “Wimbledon are a well organised side with a great manager. If they go up it will be a great feat. Their style of play is very exciting and they played with a commitment we just could not match.”

The fairy tale, nine year, rise from the Southern League was completed with 1-0 victories over Stoke at Plough Lane and away to Huddersfield. Little Wimbledon were in the big time.

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