By Richard Cawley
Joe Pigott is confident he still has plenty more he can add to his game as he gets a third bite in the Football League.
The former Charlton Athletic striker, 24, dropped into non-league with Maidstone United after failing to make an impact at Cambridge United last season.
Pigott has scored 12 goals in 30 appearances for the National League outfit – his hometown club. He also notched six times in 17 starts after an initial loan move to the Stones in the second half of the previous campaign.
The Kent-born frontman was released by the Addicks in the summer of 2016 following their relegation from the Championship.
“I’d been there for seven years and it was tough to leave,” said Pigott. “There wasn’t even a manager at the time to tell me I wasn’t wanted.
“I just needed to go out and play some games. My move to Cambridge didn’t really work out, for a few different reasons really.
“The manager there wanted me to be something I wasn’t. Maidstone helped get my career back on track. I’m a much better player now and I’m looking forward to what lies ahead.
“At Maidstone I had a manager who believed in me. I was playing every game. I was really happy how I did. I felt I really contributed.
“I got really close to everyone at the club. It is a bit of a wrench to be leaving. But to have a chance of playing League One is fantastic.
“I still think there is a lot more to come. When you’re a big striker there is so much to the game you can learn. I just want to score and keep improving my game.
“I’m pretty sure I’ll get game time. It is up to me whether I take those opportunities or not.
“My initial target is to try and help the club stay up. The manager has done a really good job over the years and, looking at the squad, we are definitely good enough to do that.”
Wimbledon bid £25,000 for Pigott last week which triggered a clause allowing him to leave Maidstone.
He wrapped up a move on Monday as he signed an 18-month contract.
“The gaffer told me on Friday that he had tried to sign me on loan multiple times while I was at Charlton,” said Pigott. “He had watched me over a period of years.
“There were rumours about clubs being interested but nothing concrete. Then Wimbledon came in and it just went from there.
“I think they put their first bid in last Wednesday. I met the gaffer on Friday and then signed Monday.
“I thought I might get another chance [in the Football League], but perhaps not as quickly as this. I’m really happy that it has.”
Ardley had made adding to his strikeforce a priority with Kwesi Appiah likely to miss the rest of the season after undergoing hamstring surgery.
“You get offered young lads on loan but it is maybe their first one and we’re in a relegation fight – we don’t need that,” said the Wimbledon chief. “Cody [McDonald] and Lyle [Taylor] are two very good strikers for the level. We didn’t want to bring in an average one.
“Joe is someone we have monitored for a while when he was going out on loan to Newport and Luton. We did enquire about him but Joe was ahead of Michael Smith [at Charlton] at that time and it was Michael who was available.
“He was probably still a little off first-team football in terms of physicality. Strikers don’t normally peak until 24-25. Myself and Simon Bassey [first-team coach] went to watch Joe a few times at Maidstone and it seemed he had filled out a bit and understood his game a bit more.
“He is still scoring goals, still technically good. We felt he would add a bit to the squad.
“I like to go with four strikers in the squad and we only had two. I want to have options. I look at the bench and we have got defenders and midfielders – no disrespect they are good players – but if Cody or Lyle have run themselves into the ground I want to turn around and think it is a great time to put fresh legs on.”
Pigott will come into contention for tomorrow’s home game against Blackpool. The Dons failed to convert opportunities in last weekend’s 0-0 draw at Milton Keynes.
“Sometimes you look at expected goals, which team had the best chances, and we were 1.8 to their 0.9,” said Ardley. “We probably edged the game.
“And Barcham had a great chance cleared off the line and then another right near the end, but he couldn’t get the ball out from under his feet. Lyle had one too.
“The boys are giving everything.”