AFC Wimbledon defender confident after “massive morale-booster”

By Richard Cawley

Deji Oshilaja reckons that Joe Pigott’s late winner for AFC Wimbledon last weekend is a huge shot in the arm for their League One survival hopes.

The Dons moved up to 18th in the table as they ended a four-game losing streak by squeaking past Bristol Rovers at the Cherry Red Records Stadium on Saturday.

Neal Ardley’s side have three successive home fixtures after tomorrow’s match at play-off chasing Peterborough United – Blackburn, Charlton and finally Oxford.

“The Bristol Rovers win is a massive morale-booster,” said Oshilaja, 24. “I was buzzing, super-excited when Joe scored. You could see from my reaction how much it meant to every single player.

“We defended well as a team and Joe came up with a last-minute winner. It is a great confidence boost to take into the weekend.

“We can start looking up the table. It is never nice when you lose four games on the trot, having played so well prior to those matches. But the table doesn’t lie. Things hadn’t been going our way and there was a bit of pressure.

“We didn’t get too worked up about it. There is another chance to get three points against Peterborough and that is the important thing, not focusing on those four matches we lost.

“Every player puts pressure on themselves. You don’t want to make it a thing where you get used to losing. We have stopped the rot and it is up to us to build on that and get momentum.

“We are unbeaten in one game – let’s make that two, three or four. We’ll take a different mentality into this one and hopefully come out with the result.”

One of the more puzzling reversals in Wimbledon’s lean spell was how a team who had strung together four clean sheets in January went on to leak 11 in the same amount of fixtures that followed.

Ardley felt that the injury absence of Barry Fuller – and the knock-of of an enforced reshuffling of his back line in both personnel and positioning – had a detrimental effect.

“Baz has quality but then so do players like Paul Robinson, Callum Kennedy and George Francomb as well,” said Oshilaja. “Baz coming out is a big miss, but we should be able to deal with anything that comes at us in this league.

“For whatever reason, it happened. But we concede goals as a collective.

“We know if you look at the match stats and our running stats, you’ll see we are not far away from the top teams. Ability has not been an issue this season, it’s maybe been a mental thing.

“The gaffer has calmed us down a bit and told us we are good players – that you don’t become bad ones overnight.

“We drew 2-2 with Peterborough down here on TV and we have got enough ammo going forward to cause them problems.”

The Dons are the fourth lowest-scorers (33) in the league. Milton Keynes (31), Bury (26) and Rochdale (29) – even less prolific – are all in the bottom four.

“Strikers don’t just score by themselves,” said Oshilaja. “It is a process. We have to supply the balls and they have to get chances. Maybe we haven’t given them the correct balls as well as them missing.

“We score together and we concede together. Lyle Taylor is a quality striker, Cody McDonald is proven at this level and we’ve got Joe as well. It’s a shame that Kwesi is out injured.”

Bermondsey-raised Oshilaja was a June signing on a free after his release by Cardiff City. He played 23 times during a loan stay with the Dons in 2015.

The trip to London Road this weekend is set to be his 60th outing for Wimbledon and his 31st this season.

“I’m pleased with how I have been playing and feel I have been very consistent and come on a lot with the help of the staff and players we have got here.

“It has been about staying injury-free and showing what I can do. Every player has a niggle, I’ve had a few, but once the game starts you don’t think too much because the adrenaline is pumping.

“It’s about maintaining yourself so those niggles don’t become serious. I’m fine to play with a little knock now and then.”

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