BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Neal Ardley tore into the first-half performance of his AFC Wimbledon side in today’s 2-1 loss to Portsmouth – admitting it is piling on the pressure.
The Dons were sluggish in the opening 45 minutes and could have been more than 2-0 down.
James Hanson’s fine second-half strike gave them hope, but they could not avert a third straight League One defeat on the bounce.
Manager Ardley said: “I’m a Wimbledon boy. I know what they [the fans] want. That’s why I’m so hurting with what the first half was. I’ll take some positives from the second half but we are going to have to do a hell of a lot better going forward and we’ll have to start that on Monday.
“It’s always tough. Not only because you’re judged on results and we’ve lost three on the trot. When everyone goes home disappointed it’s not in my hands, but it is as manager – that hurts me. I know people aren’t happy and I’m not happy.
“I’ve got to change things quickly or changes will probably end up getting made.”
Ardley made three substitutions at the start of the second half. And he had nothing good to say about the first half showing.
“No confidence, no belief – tentative. They [Portsmouth] picked up more second balls. They didn’t do much more then play forward, support the play quickly, get hold of it up front – and we got lost doing none of anything.
“I just saw a group of players playing individually. I’m bereft as to why it happened, because we worked all week, but it did. In the second half we turned it on its head and showed a bit more what Wimbledon’s about.”
The Dons’ players were delayed coming out for the second half – and Ardley revealed that was due to Joe Pigott being unwell in the dressing room and needing to be substituted.
“I considered making substitutions after half an hour, but it’s a good job I didn’t because I had one player injured, one player sick as a dog at half time – if I’d left them on then we’d have been struggling.
“We thought ‘let’s get through to half time and make changes before it became too late’. Andy Barcham is injured and we made changes so Joe Pigott was still on the pitch, I came out to make the changes and was then told that Joe was throwing up in the toilets. So we had to get the shout back in that one of the players who was set to come off was staying on.
“It’s very rare I’ve made three changes at half time – because you run the risk someone gets a whack and you’ve got nothing else you can do. But desperate times call for desperate measures. We were getting comprehensively outplayed – nowhere near good enough in the first half – I had to do something.
“We weren’t getting a lot of things in the first half – energy, tempo and desire. The second half the whole team played with more energy, tempo and desire. They won their battles and played like a Wimbledon team should.”
The Dons have had torrid spells at other points this season. Their latest reverse leaves them just above the bottom four.
“We had it at Burton first half, we had it for a spell when we went 2-0 down to Scunthorpe at home, we had it at Accrington first half – I don’t know. It’s probably a mentality, a weakness. We’re going to have to change a few things – both in maybe the system and the way we play – to take some decision-making away from the group for the time being.
“They’ve got to learn to play more effective football. We’ve got to play with more intensity and energy than we did in the first half today.”
IMAGES BY PAUL EDWARDS