Last year, Ardley was shattered before the season even began, but now he is... Relaxed and raring to go

Low times: Ardley suffered even before the League Two season started

Low times: Ardley suffered even before the League Two season started

First published in Sport Surrey Comet: Photograph of the Author by , Sports editor

This time last year, Neal Ardley was a shattered manager facing his first full season in charge of AFC Wimbledon.

This time round, he insists he is more relaxed, better prepared and has rectified the mistakes of last season.

Ardley’s preparations for the League Two kick-off are picking up a pace and continued on Saturday with a 3-1 win at Woking, with goals from Matt Tubbs, Sean Rigg and Chris Arthur.

Ardley, 41, said: “Last summer was my first as a manager and I felt I needed to get everything right, which anyone would do, and by the time the season started I was shattered.

“But this summer has been different and I’ve done things a lot better.

“I’ve chilled out, done a bit of decorating around the house and tried to relax more, and it seems to have worked.”

Despite a good start to the season with four wins in the opening six games, Dons drifted away and a lack of a cutting edge up front saw them score only 49 league goals.

Nine of those goals went to leading scorer Michael Smith, who only played part of the season, highlighting the need for a change.

Ardley said: “I’m not stupid, I know where we went wrong last season – it was not tactics or negativity.

“The stats showed us that Barry Fuller was our highest crosser from the opposition’s third of the pitch, so if my full backs are that high, does that tell you I am a negative manager? No.

“What we had was a lack of firepower because our forwards were not striking or very confident.

“I’m not saying they were bad players, but they went through a spell where they weren’t confident, and the pressure was building, and the more the team went 20 minutes without scoring, the more we become edgy and it affected the whole season. It became a real slog.

“This summer, I set out to get Matt [Tubbs] and Bayo [Akinfenwa], and even the most basic of stats tell you there is a great chance they will get you what you want if you can keep them fit.

“That’s on paper – we’ve got to put it on grass.”

Dons go to Havant & Waterlooville tonight (Friday), and Aldershot tomorrow (Saturday).

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