In-form AFC Wimbledon striker Joe Pigott on “amazing chance” for club to beat the League One drop

BY YANN TEAR
yann@slpmedia.co.uk

Joe Pigott says AFC Wimbledon have given themselves “an amazing chance” of beating the drop and is vowing to strive for more crucial goals to complete a great escape.

In a remarkable week of three wins and three clean sheets, Pigott has bagged the winner in the past two matches – following up his nerveless penalty at the death to defeat Peterborough just over a week ago with the 67th-minute winner at Southend on Saturday.

AFC Wimbledon striker Joe Pigott

That took the ex-Charlton Athletic striker’s tally to 13 for the season and only fuelled belief that the Dons can complete their rise from the foot of the table to finish above the bottom four.

“We were pretty far off it, but we’ve given ourselves an amazing chance,” Pigott told the South London Press. “It’s going to be an amazing last eight games for us.

“The week we’ve had has given us belief that we can get out of it, and I think we’re all really looking forward to it now.

“We may need to get another four wins from those last eight games to reach the 50-point mark everyone thinks is what you need to stay up.  But it’s so tight down there, with so many teams involved, that any number of points might be needed.

“We have tried to shore things up much more at the back, and it has paid off. We weren’t scoring enough goals at the start of the season, but we were obviously conceding too many as well and we needed to sort that out to stand a chance.

AFC Wimbledon striker Joe Pigott

“We’ve done just that with three clean sheets this week and it’s given everybody a lift. We look more solid and we know, as a side, that if it’s 0-0 at half time, we can go on and win it. We are trying to stay in games for as long as possible to give ourselves the best opportunity of getting something at the end of it and the back three have done so well. As a team, the boys have defended magnificently.”

One of the most impressive features of his record this season is his goals record in a struggling side, and his ability to cope with pressure in big games. He was a Wembley scorer in a play-off final with Southend in 2015, so has a stomach for the occasion.

He again showed he has what it takes in stepping up to convert that vital penalty against Posh last week. Not that he wasn’t aware of the enormous responsibility.

“You do feel a bit of pressure and I had a few nerves when I had to take that penalty,” he said. “But you just have to put yourself in the zone. I back myself to do okay because I’ve scored some crucial goals already this season and will be doing my best to do it again.

“At times I feel I haven’t done quite as well as I could, but I had a thigh injury which kept me out for a couple of months over Christmas and it happened just when [manager] Wally Downes arrived, so it was bad timing.

AFC Wimbledon striker Joe Pigott celebrates goal

“But I’ve hit a bit of form now and I’m really happy that I’m contributing some vital goals for us. If I’m playing, I feel I can always score goals. I managed it when I arrived from Maidstone United, scoring on my debut [against Blackpool last January] and getting some more pretty important goals last season. It was quite tough making the step up but I settled pretty quickly, so it’s given me the belief I can do well again.”

The treble he netted in a crazy 4-3 win at Rochdale last month hinted at the possibility of a dramatic revival.

“The hat-trick was obviously very special for me,” he said. “It was my first in professional football and hopefully not my last. I’ve got the signed match ball at my home and it’s kept in a room with all my other footballing bits and pieces.

“I feel I’m putting a few roots down here now after the loans spells I’ve had in recent years at various clubs. I’ve got two more years on my contract and I want to play as many games as I can. It has been a great move for me.”

The Dons will be up against their old warrior Barry Fuller on Saturday, as Gillingham come to the Cherry Red Records Stadium, and knowledge of his qualities makes Pigott all-too aware of the challenge ahead.

“He’s a fellow Kent lad and a big character,” said the striker, who had a loan spells with the Gills a few seasons ago. “I’m looking forward to seeing him and playing against him. He was a great character in the dressing room. We know he will make it difficult for us. He’s a top player and a top guy.

“It will be a hard game for us. They got a great result last week at Luton, drawing at their place, so they will come here full of confidence, expecting something from the game. But we will be too and we’ll want to keep our momentum going.”

PHOTOS: PAUL EDWARDS

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