Dons skipper on facing West Ham United in FA Cup – and why he never wants to see standards drop again after flat Fleetwood Town display

BY RICHARD CAWLEY

richard@slpmedia.co.uk

Will Nightingale reckons that tomorrow night’s FA Cup tie against West Ham United has come at the perfect time after AFC Wimbledon badly misfired in midweek.

The Dons are eight points adrift of safety in League One after a 3-0 home loss to Fleetwood Town on Tuesday.

And next up comes the visit of the Hammers. It is a repeat of the EFL Cup meeting in August.

Rod McDonald’s early red card – after Joe Pigott had put Wimbledon in front – eventually told as the east London outfit scored three second-half goals.

But Wandsworth-born centre-back Nightingale, 23, reckons any Hammers scout in the crowd for their latest reverse would not get a full picture of Wally Downes’ side.

“That [Tuesday night’s display] is not us,” said Nightingale, who joined the Dons at the age of nine. “That’s not what a Wimbledon side is about.

“We’ve got to be completely different to that. I’m hoping we’ll never perform to that standard again. We’ve set our standards high since the new gaffer came in. On Tuesday night we have let him down because those standards have slipped.”

Nightingale rejects any notion that the prestige tie was in the players’ minds as the Cod Army ran out comfortable victors.

“It’s easy to say after we have lost like that,” he responds. “But I don’t want to be giving any excuses. The simple fact of the matter is it is what we do out there – and it wasn’t good enough.

“We’ve got to get better and improve at the same old things. They were cheap, sloppy goals and it kills us. It kills the momentum. We’ve got to tighten up as group on the pitch and start winning games of football. He [Downes] has given all the boys a new lease of life – certainly me. It’s probably hard to see it now, after a game like that. But I’ve said it before, the stats are quite good in his favour.

“It will be nice to take a little break from the league because, at the minute, things need to sharpen up. We did quite well against them last time.

“If we can take something positive from West Ham, and then the Sunderland game, it should kick us on.

“This is our job and things have got to improve, otherwise we’re going to be in a bad way at the end of the season. Nobody wants that – definitely not for the fans.

“We’ve got to find that old-school Wimbledon spirit and use it. Take Tuesday night out and we have been more than decent of late. We’ve got to get into each other and test each other’s character more, because we seem to be breaking too easily at the minute.” 

The dynamics are different going into this meeting with West Ham. Their opponents had lost their first three matches before heading to the Cherry Red Records Stadium.

They have won seven of their last 11 and are 10th in the Premier League standings.

“We were 1-0 up and had something to hold onto. Obviously the pressure was going to come from a side two divisions above you. 

“We held on quite well, but they were relentless.

“We shouldn’t fear anyone. When you cross that white line you’ve got to know you have given everything. That should stand you in good stead. You’ve got to have that belief.”

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