Mark Robinson can welcome back Moroccan teenage sensation Ayoub Assal for Saturday’s Emirates FA Cup third round clash with Boreham Wood at Meadow Park.
A positive test for Covid-19 ruled Assal (pictured) out of our last League One game at Oxford United, but he returns to the Dons squad for a tricky tie away to the National League high-flyers. Defender Will Nightingale is also back in contention having recovered from his ankle and knee sprains.
“Ayoub is back, he’s looking really sharp,” said Robbo. “The only issue we’ve got with Will is that he won’t be able to go back-to-back games just yet, so we’ve got to work out when he’s going to start. He won’t be able to go Saturday, Tuesday straight away.”
Robbo is looking forward to facing a Dons hero from the past with Luke Garrard having taken a similar career path to him - from the academy to leading the first-team.
“I know Luke really well, we’ve become really good friends,” said Robbo. “When I used to be youth team coach and he looked after their youth team, we used to play Boreham Wood every pre-season. I knew him when he was a player with us and that has continued.
“He’s done an absolutely fantastic job. He’s very underrated in what he has done at Boreham Wood. Like myself, he ran the academy and now he’s got the first team manager’s job. He’s someone I respect a lot. I’m looking forward to seeing him again, but obviously we want to get a positive result!”
With a change to the rules of the competition, it’s now a one-off occasion with no prospect of a replay back at the Cherry Red Records Stadium. Both sides will be going for it, with extra-time and penalties both possibilities when it comes to deciding the outcome on the day.
“It’s a real test,” said Robbo. “They are really good at what they do. We know how tough it is going to be and we’ve got to deal with it. As always, we’ve got to implement our game on them.
“We’re preparing for everything, but more important is that we’ve got to look forward to playing football again and get back to being us and give everyone something to look forward to. We’re fully prepared, we know what they offer. We know that if there’s things we don’t do well enough, it’s going to be a difficult afternoon – which it will be anyway.
“I think they’ve got the most clean sheets in the country, out of all five divisions. They very rarely concede. If it becomes a game where they are enjoying themselves, we know we’re in trouble. We’ve got to implement our style and ourselves on the game.”
For our full FA Cup preview with Head Coach Mark Robinson, including an update on the return to fitness of defender Paul Kalambayi, click on the link below via our official YouTube channel.
You can also watch what happened when the squad switched training venue this week to beat the freeze and prepare for this weekend's Cup tie.