BY MAX HALL
With back-to-back fixtures against fellow League One strugglers looming, Neal Ardley has spoken about the importance of getting Wimbledon’s first home win on the board at the weekend.
“They’re coming thick and fast at the moment,” said the Dons manager, of a fixture list that brings third-from bottom Bradford to the Cherry Red Records Stadium tonight and a trip to basement side Plymouth on Saturday.
“[Against Oxford] it was all about substance, grinding, trying to do what we needed to do, and not worry about whether it’s a pretty game.
“It was all about the win, we got it, we’ve got to make sure we use it to try and get some momentum.”
The phoenix club have had a slow start to the season after a high turnover of playing personnel in the summer, but the Wimbledon manager insisted he has seen promising signs in the opening 10 league games.
“We can do better,” he conceded. “We’ve got the capabilities of doing better. [In the] last few weeks we’ve just lost our way a touch, in different aspects of the game.
“We need to learn how to win games of football better. If we can just grasp that knowledge and that knowhow, we can certainly do better than last season, which is what’s needed.”
After conceding Saturday’s welcome 2-1 victory over Oxford was not easy on the eye though, Ardley warned Dons fans to temper their expectations ahead of the visit of Bradford.
“Well, I haven’t got much chance to train them before it!” he added. “I’d like to think we’ll possibly play a bit better.”
There were the first signs of a fan rebellion at the Oxford game, with a second-half substitution that included the withdrawal of target man and goalscorer Joe Pigott greeted with boos at one end of the stadium.
“Joe came off because he was tired,” explained the Wimbledon manager. “Joe’s good when he plays up front with a partner, that’s probably the best part of his game.
I changed shape slightly because we were getting run all over at that point and I wanted to shore up the midfield a bit more.
“We just tweaked a couple of things and I thought Joe was tired, he looked tired to me. That was my call, if I think a player hasn’t got the legs, I need to make the substitution.
“Whatever substitution I make, I’m doing it to win a game of football – for the fans. I can’t leave a fans’ favourite on because he’s a fans’ favourite. I’ve got to make that judgement call and we’ve gone and won the game.
“If we hadn’t have gone and won the game, it would’ve totally been because I’d brought Joe off, wouldn’t it!”