AFC Wimbledon 1-0 Leyton Orient
AFC Wimbledon must summon one last push to reach the play-offs, according to boss Neal Ardley.
The Wombles are on the brink of the end of season knockout phase following Saturday’s 1-0 win over Leyton Orient, their fifth win on the bounce and one which ended the Os’ own promotion dreams.
Ardley’s men would have sealed their place already but for Cambridge’s second-half winner at Notts County which left them as the only team still able to reel in the Dons.
Wimbledon can seal the deal with victory over fellow promotion hopefuls Portsmouth tomorrow night, a win which would see them leapfrog Pompey into sixth.
Ardley though is not interested in league position, only in getting to the 73 points needed to guarantee progress.
“I’m not worried about getting in front of Portsmouth - I’m really not,” he said.
“If we beat them the only thing which will be important won’t be the fact we are sixth it will be the fact we are there in the playoffs.
“We now need 73 points to be guaranteed and we’ve got three games to get there. I’m not bothered about whether we finish seventh or sixth, or if we do get there who we play we have just got to get there.
“Everyone’s mind-set needs to be let’s do what we need to do to get there and as quickly as we possibly can.”
Once again it was a case of blood, sweat and gears bagging the points on Saturday.
Lyle Taylor’s 20th league goal of the season 17 minutes in provided the latter and he might have had a second minutes later but for an outstanding save from Alex Ciask, who had already parried an Andy Barcham effort and who later in the half somehow kept out Tom Elliott’s thunderous volley.
The recalled Connor Smith also failed to get a free header on target in a dominant first half.
“We know we have got goals in us and the one disappointment at half-time was we weren’t two or three up because their goalkeeper has made two or three great saves,” said Ardley.
The second half was a bit of a slog, but an early chance for Armand Gnanduillet apart there was little to trouble Dons as their central defensive pairing of Paul Robinson and Darius Charles in particular stood firm in the face of every aerial bombardment.
The two warriors at the heart of the rear-guard drew special praise from their boss, though he went on to point out their efforts were part of a huge defensive display from 1-11.
“I thought our two centre-backs were absolutely immense today, they really were, but they can’t do it on their own,” added Ardley.
“We always talk about the team ethic and the work-rate from the front and all the players worked their socks off.
“There was a point in the first half when Lyle and Tom pressed their centre-back into a mistake where he gave the ball away and I just saw the place clapping with appreciation for the team ethic.
“They were going with diagonal balls to two big ones and trying to run between our back four, so we just said at half-time see your jobs out in and around our box, don’t take any chances, track runners, follow people in and every time it did drop in the box there were five or six of our players around it, throwing bodies in there hooking things clear and it needed to be like that.
“Clean sheets come because people see their jobs out and to a man they were brilliant today.”