BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Neal Ardley says he can’t think about his own position coming under threat – because it will not help his AFC Wimbledon players.
The Dons lost 2-1 at home to Portsmouth on Saturday and it took a triple substitution to invigorate them after a dreadful first half.
Asked about worrying over his own position, long-serving Ardley said:
“I’ve been under pressure for six years. From trying to keep them up in year one, to trying to get promoted. Listen, I can’t think about that. All I can think about is giving the team my energy and enthusiasm. But there are clearly things over the course of the last five or six weeks – you don’t just down tools after you lose a few games. You keep working on the processes that made you a good team at the start of the season.
“Ultimately these boys are drained of confidence. You saw that in the first half. We played as individuals – that’s why you get the performance in the first half.
“In the second half we’ve got nothing to lose and you see a different team. We’ve got to play a bit more like we’ve got nothing to lose from the start.”
Wimbledon have lost five of their last six matches – and three in succession.
“I don’t crucify them, for a start,” said Ardley, when asked how he builds confidence. “I’ve got to work with them. I’ve got to be a psychologist and make things even clearer. That’s all you can do to take it 75 or 80 per cent there – and the results have to do the rest.
“We’ve got to earn the right to get the results and we clearly haven’t today. You can’t play for 45 minutes and go 2-0 down like today.”
The team also had a bonding exercise recently.
Ardley said: “We’ve started that process. We had lunch and bowling. We’re trying to build the togetherness up but this isn’t about togetherness and whether I’m nice to the players. This is about people stepping up to the plate. I’ve got to step up to the plate. I’ve got to get that atmosphere and intensity [of the second half] every day – but the players need to come with me, I can’t do it myself.”
“The subs came on and made a difference. Everyone played better second half. Kwesi [Appiah] played better – everyone played better. Some have lost a bit of confidence, I can see that now, some aren’t doing enough, I can see that now. We’ll find a bit more out this week and my intention is we’ll see that second half performance more in the game.”