The arrival of new defender Chris Robertson has a dual purpose for AFC Wimbledon boss Neal Ardley.

Robertson has signed a season-long deal at the Cherry Red Records stadium having moved south of the border from Ross County so his pregnant wife can be nearer to family.

First and foremost, the 29-year-old has been brought in as cover for Paul Robinson and Darius Charles.

However, Robertson, who can play in the centre or the right, could also be opening the door for Will Nightingale to become the player Ardley is convinced he can be.

He said: “We had a list of criteria that we wanted a defender to bring.

“He needed to have enough ability, knowledge and experience to play at Bolton or Sheffield United if Robbo or Darius are injured, this guy needs to be able to play and not someone who you hope can play.”

He added: “But we have a really high opinion of Will [Nightingale], and the biggest thing he needs for his development is something we are struggling to offer up until the signing of Chris.

“Will needs games so he can get his body used to rigours of playing regular football, and he needs the experience and knowledge of playing at a decent level at centre back.

“We can now loan him out to a National League side where the standard is tough and very high, and he will get the game time he needs.

“I have had this discussion with Will, and Chris’ signing was not plucked out of the air – we wanted someone who would allow us to develop Will further and not weaken the squad.

“I believe Will is going to a star of the future.”

The Dons chief has the luxury of choosing from a fully fit squad for this weekend’s clash against Sheffield United at the CRRS.

However, he also knows that the Blades new boss Chris Wilder has started to turn the visitors’ fortunes around.

Ardley said: “We won’t change the way we approach the game – we have never been scared to go toe to toe with bigger clubs – we won’t try to be defensive, I don’t that is in our make-up.

“They had a little blip at the start of the season – they are in a massive transition with a new manager.

“Chris is a great guy and he is turning it around - they have won last two, thoroughly outplayed Gills on Sunday, and they have started to become the favourites for the title people thought they would be.

“Hopefully we can draw on the atmosphere and the lowered expectation of going against a big club with a big budget – we normally turn those games into a positive.”