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Match Previews

Returning forward offers extra attacking option for Johnnie

Update from our manager ahead of trip to Doncaster

23 February 2024

Match Previews

Returning forward offers extra attacking option for Johnnie

Update from our manager ahead of trip to Doncaster

23 February 2024

Josh Neufville has handed the Dons a timely boost ahead of Wimbledon’s trip to Doncaster Rovers on Saturday.

The pacy forward hasn’t featured since the New Year’s Day match at Forest Green, but Johnnie Jackson confirmed that he’s in contention to feature at the South Yorkshire venue tomorrow after recovering from injury.

“Josh has trained fully this week and he has travelled with the squad, so he’s available,” confirmed Johnnie. “He’s been out a long time, so we need to be a bit careful with him.

“Josh had a very good start to the season, but he suffered an injury to his lower back, which was frustrating for us all. It was a difficult one to manage because he was able to play on with it for a certain period, but it was affecting the way he was playing, so he had to stop and let it heal.

“His back is fine now, so he’s ready to return. When Josh is fit and fresh he can be a big player for us, so we’re delighted to have him back.”

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However, Johnnie had mixed feelings when asked for an update on the hamstring injury that Kofi Balmer suffered in the midweek defeat at home to Crawley.

“It doesn’t look too bad – we are probably looking at a fortnight without him,” added Johnnie. “It’s obviously disappointing that he’s going to miss a few games, but hamstring injuries can be a lot worse. We’re not happy that he’ll miss games, but we're pleased that it’s not a long-term injury.”

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With 13 league games remaining in a much-improved season for the Dons, Johnnie has called on everyone to stick together in the race for a League Two play-off place.

Overall, I think the supporters have been happy with the progression that the Club has made and that’s been shown by the away matches when they’ve travelled in their numbers. They’ve been vocal with their support, but they’re also entitled to vent their frustration.

“It’s been different this season because at times we’ve been expected to win. When that doesn’t happen we all get frustrated. Everyone believes in what we’re doing and what we’ve achieved, so we’ve all got to stick together for that last push.

“This is the final match in February and we have to give it everything we can for the last two months. That involves everyone, including players, staff and supporters - and we'll see where it takes us. Hopefully, we can get where we want to be.”

Being firmly in contention for the top-seven is in stark contrast to last season when the Dons were in danger of getting dragged into a relegation battle.

“As a football club, we’ve come on miles since this time last year when we were looking over our shoulders,” recalled Johnnie. “But we’ve got something to strive for this season. Obviously, there are a lot of teams in contention, but that offers motivation to claw our way into the play-off places.

“If we can find that consistency in the final 13 games we’ll have a great chance. We’ve been without a few key players, so hopefully when we get them back we’ll be stronger and the recent spell will have just been a little bump in the road for us. This time last year there was not a lot to look forward to, but now we’ve got everything to play for.”

Johnnie after Barrow pic.jpg

Ahead of the trip to Doncaster, training was switched to the 4G surface at the Elmbridge Xcel Sports Hub in Walton. That was not the scenario Johnnie wanted, but he believes the staff are getting the balance right to attack the final 13 fixtures.  

“It was not ideal training on the 4G today because you want to be on the grass a day before the game,” added Johnnie. “The weather put paid to that, but a lot of teams have similar problems. We had other options, including training somewhere on route, but there were a lot of waterlogged pitches elsewhere. It was fine down at Walton and we got a good training session in.

"Overall, the squad is fine, but you have to manage the training and recovery, so that you get the balance right to ensure peak fitness. We’ve been mindful not to overcook the lads in between the games, but there are things that we need to work on so that we are better on the pitch and we also have to do work on the opposition. I think we are finding a good balance, but we just need to keep them as fresh as possible for the games.

"We changed formation on Tuesday and I thought for long periods that it worked. We have a few different ways of playing and within that we tweak things based upon the opposition that we’re facing. There has been enough there to suggest that we don’t need to rip up what we’ve been doing after a couple of games that didn't go our way. We’ll always look at ways that we can hurt the opposition, which also involves mixing it up with personnel. It’s horses for courses really."


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