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Match Previews

Dons close to full strength for trip to Walsall

Team news for Saturday’s game in the West Midlands

22 September 2023

Match Previews

Dons close to full strength for trip to Walsall

Team news for Saturday’s game in the West Midlands

22 September 2023

Johnnie Jackson is getting closer to having a fully fit squad to choose from, following a productive week at the training ground.

After Crewe denied us a first home win in the league this season with a late goal, we look to extend our unbeaten away run at Walsall – building on victories at Colchester and Sutton.

“Armani Little and Jake Reeves are both coming along well,” said Johnnie after Friday’s final training session in New Malden. “They’ve joined in sessions this week, we’ve had to dip them in and out, as they’ve been out for a few weeks, and we need to get them up to speed. Before long, those guys will be back involved.

“Paul Kalambayi and Huseyin Biler both got their minutes in during the week, in the behind-closed-doors game against Stevenage. Slowly, but surely, the boys are coming back. I’ve been saying the eleven and the eighteen have been difficult to pick and never more so than now – it makes it even tougher.”

You can see the full pre-match interview and some of the other main points below.

What was the atmosphere like coming back in at the start of the week and after analysis? Did you have to pick them up?

We had a meeting on Monday morning and the boys were disappointed because of how well we played, the chances we created, and we only had a point to show for it. We recognised that we’ve got to be taking the three points in that situation.

We looked back at the goals on Monday and the things that maybe we can do differently, of course. Then we looked at all the stuff we are doing well – all the chances we created and all of the good play. There’s always things you can improve upon, but it reinforces what we’re doing really well.

It was good for them to see clips from games and the statistics, just to hammer home how close we are and how we should be higher up the table than where we are.

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It is a team effort, but there’s a lot of focus on James Tilley at the moment, he can play and score with his left and his right foot. We also promote doing that at academy level. How important is that in the modern game now?

Wingers are in the team to create and score goals, to get crosses in and come up with assists – that’s what I want from my forward players. I say that to all my players that play in that position - I want positive action.

If they are in a one-on-one situation, I want them to take players on and to get shots off. We need to hit the target more than we have been, that would be my one criticism, but the fact we are taking on shots and being really proactive in the final third is something that really pleases me.

I want to give our forward players that creative license to go and do their thing in the final third. They’ve got to do the defensive work behind though – they’re not off the hook! They’re in the team to score goals, Tilley is a great example of that so far, and to all our young lads.

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Jack Currie had to come off last week. How is he?

Jack came off after feeling his calf. It was a little bit of cramp. It was a warm day and he’s just coming back to full fitness. We made that change in the game because we felt we had to, but he’s trained all week.

Jack is fine – there’s no issues there. I’ve said it before, but that’s one of the areas on the pitch that is difficult to pick. We’ve got two good players there in Jack and Lee Brown competing for one position and that makes things difficult, but it’s a nice problem to have.

Full coverage of tomorrow afternoon’s game, with our Radio WDON team, is available via iFollow Dons.

Photos: Ian Stephen (Pro Sports Images).


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