BY JAKE SANDERS
Wally Downes admitted that he was more confident than ever that his AFC Wimbledon side would finish the job and retain their League One status at Valley Parade.
The Dons completed their Great Escape with a goalless draw at Bradford City and finished above Plymouth Argyle – who were relegated despite beating Scunthorpe United – on goal difference.
Wimbledon were 10 points adrift only two months back, but an incredible run of just one defeat from their final 12 matches guided them to safety.
Downes explained: “I said to the players before the game: ‘I have been involved in some good teams, but I am as confident today sending you out to get a result in this fixture as I have been in any fixture I have ever been involved with and as I say, there has been some very good days in my career’.
“The same people who were telling us we couldn’t do it have been saying to us recently ‘oh you can do it now’, so I just had to make sure the players believed that we could do it the whole time. Even when we had bad periods where we dropped down and when we played well and got points and other teams were winning around us.
“I said: ‘It’s not about who has the good run now, it’s about who has the good run towards the last eight to 10 games, which is critical’. We hung in there and clawed it back and we showed our resilience today.”
Downes was reluctant to receive updates from games elsewhere, but as the nerves started to grow, the Dons boss gave in.
With Plymouth and Southend both winning going into the final minutes, a late Bradford goal would have seen the Dons relegated in a dramatic late twist.
“I said I didn’t want to be made aware of any of the scores, but it got the better of me and I found out after 80 minutes,” Downes said. “I knew how many twists and turns there would be, even after the 90. The important thing was everyone focussing on getting the result.”
IMAGES BY SEAN GOSLING