Joe Lewis, Connor Evans and Ali Al-Hamadi all return to our squad for the visit of Crewe Alexandra on Saturday afternoon.
Ali is back from Thailand and his part in Iraq’s King’s Cup triumph. Lewis and Evans were unable to take part in last weekend’s defeat at home to Stockport County, due to the terms of their loan agreements with the Edgeley Park club.
Manager Johnnie Jackson spoke immediately after Friday’s final training session in New Malden and you can see the full interview and a summary of the main points below.
Key players Rod McDonald and Dan Agyei, who we’re well aware of, have moved on from Crewe. They’ve got a manager similar in age to you though and had a good start to this season. What have you made of them?
I think they’ve had an impressive start. They’ve got some good players and good fluidity about them. We know it’s going to be a tough game, they’ve scored a fair few goals as well, so they create chances.
Like anyone though, there’ll be areas we can exploit. What we’ve said this week is that it’s about getting back to what we’re really good at. We always have one eye on the opposition and what they’re going to try and do, but the focus has to be on us.
When we’re bang at it, doing the things that suit us and with the players that we’ve got – I think we’re a really good team, hard to beat and a match for anyone in the league. I think we came away from that in the defeat to Stockport last week, so that’s been the focus of the training this week.
We’ve got a lot of good attributes and it’s about playing to our strengths now.
Ali is back and approaching full fitness now?
He’s firing! He loves going away and representing his country – he’s proud of that and we’re proud of him. To have that representation on the international football stage is good for the football club.
The downside of that is that we lost him for a game, but he’s back with a spring in his step having got his first international goal. There was travelling involved, but he’s keen to get back out there for us.
You could have a selection headache with Joe and Connor back too?
Yes, they missed out last week against their parent club and Joe has been a mainstay for us. He was disappointed he couldn’t play because he is loving his time here and is key to what we’re doing.
We still need to integrate Connor though. He’s new to it, having come on at Newport and then missed the EFL Trophy game against Stevenage, having played in the competition, and then last weekend. He has had a really good week training though.
We’ll build him up and get him involved and I think he’ll be a really good player for us too.
Paul Kalambayi and Huseyin Biler joined in the early part of training today, but still too soon for them?
Not tomorrow for those guys. We’re probably going to look to arrange a friendly for next week, particularly for those lads, but there’s other guys that are probably going to need a game and some minutes.
Having missed pre-season, we can’t put them straight into the league action and we probably need to give them 45 or 60 minutes in a friendly match and see how they come through that. They are training really well though and looking sharper every session.
Just behind them with their progress are Jake Reeves and Armani Little?
They’re doing well with their rehab work. They stepped right up this week and are sort of hitting all the markers that we need them to, in order to reintroduce them into full training. We’ll have them back hopefully as soon as possible, then hopefully we’ve got a full squad to choose from. When we have got those options, we look really strong.
It’s encouraging you’ve got Jack Currie and Lee Brown competing for a position now.
Yes, Jack is back. He’s fit. He’s been building his minutes up last week and in the EFL Trophy. He is ready to go and he’s competing for that spot with Browny. That’s two good left-backs and a difficult one to choose from, but one of those calls I’m going to have to make!
You can listen to full coverage of the game against Crewe with our Radio WDON team via iFollow Dons.
Main photo: Ian Stephen (Pro Sports Images).