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Time to clear the air at AFC Wimbledon
Neal Ardley and his beleagured Dons stars had “clear the air talks” at training on Tuesday in an attempt to restore belief ahead of another tough trip north.
The Dons go to Rochdale on Saturday needing to address a run of six League Two games without a win – form that has seen them drop from third to 15th in the table inside five weeks.
After last weekend’s 2-0 reverse at home to Oxford United, Ardley admitted that the camp needed an injection of positivity – something he hoped would be achieved from Tuesday’s frank discussions.
“There is no easy way to restore the belief,” he said. “We’ll have a team meeting at training. We will make the players aware of our thoughts, and we will listen to them.
“It will be a ‘speak it as you find it’ discussion, so we can make sure there are no grey areas.
“Once the players know that we support them and what we are trying to achieve together, I know we will get there as a team.”
Starting role: Dons adopted a "cup mentality" for the Oxford game, something they thought would suit Charlie Strutton's style SP79028
At the end of a long seven days, which saw the Dons endure two long trips north, a disrupted week’s training and the loss of Harry Pell and Alan Bennett to injury, Ardley confessed to not having time to prepare for Oxford as he would have liked.
Wanting a “cup mentality” approach, the boss changed formation from 4-5-1 to 4-4-2, and gave Charlie Strutton his first start of the season.
Ardley added: “There was not much time before the Oxford United game to go through the preparation processes, so we decided not to make it a tactical game.
“We went 4-4-2, tried to play at a high tempo and have a good go with a cup tie mentality – which we thought suited Charlie Strutton’s style – but it did not work.”
Pell came in for criticism from Ardley when the midfielder did not get an x-ray on a foot injury last Wednesday, believing it was improving.
Pell and other players could not make training on Thursday due to being stuck in traffic on the M25, and during Friday’s training session Pell lasted half an hour before pulling out due to his injury – much to Ardley’s annoyance.
He said: “When he pulled out we were unhappy with him, given we’d asked him to get the x-ray on Wednesday.
“By the time an x-ray on Friday showed it to be bone bruising rather than a break, we had decided what we were doing for the Oxford game, so Harry went on the bench.”
He added: “Losing Harry and Alan [Bennett] all contributed to a bad week.”
Ardley is hopeful both will be back in the starting line-up for Rochdale, while Kevin Sainte-Luce and Charlie Sheringham continue to get pitch-time with the U21s.
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