Dons boss refused to write off Rochdale threat despite major step towards safety on Saturday

By Anthony Scales

Wimbledon’s 2-1 victory at home to Oxford on Saturday chalked off another mark towards the League One survival target set by Dons manager Neal Ardley from the club’s final 11 fixtures.

“I felt we needed at least four wins, and some draws in there and [against Oxford] we’ve made a big step,” said the Dons manager. “We now need three and some draws and we’ve got to get them in 10 games, and whether that starts next Saturday or the Saturday after, we’ve got to make sure we just keep going.”

But Ardley warned against assuming the next win would arrive on Saturday, away to a Rochdale side who sit third from bottom.

The Dale have games in hand on their rivals thanks to a stunning FA Cup run that included holding Tottenham 2-2 at home last month before capitulating in the replay at Wembley and Ardley hinted Saturday’s opponents may be in a false position after falling behind on their league fixtures.

“They’ve got a really tough task ahead of them between now and the end of the season, with the amount of games they’ve got” said the Wimbledon manager. “But [Dale manager Keith Hill’s] got them clicking and they’re playing very, very well at the moment.

“We saw what they did with Spurs, they’ve beaten Rotherham [on Saturday], which is fantastic for them, they beat Walsall comfortably [a week earlier]. They’re in a really, really good place and they’re certainly not giving up the fight. So it’s one where we’ve got to go and we’ve got to have a good performance level to get anything from that game.

“You know if you lose the game that they’ve got three points and it’s three more points that they’ve got on you, with the games in hand.

“When you’re down there, the old classic saying ‘it’s a six-pointer’ [applies]. It makes a difference but there’s plenty of them to go between now and the end of the season and the way I look at it is, it’s not important what happens [to league positions] week by week, the most important thing is what happens after 46 games.”

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