Neal Ardley Under More Pressure After AFC Wimbledon Lose To Oxford United

Oxford United 3 v AFC Wimbledon 0

Pressure must be mounting on AFC Wimbledon manager Neal Ardley after he watched his side lose 3-0 at Oxford United on Saturday (7 October) – and then insisted that his team had been on a recent good run of form.

This match means that the Dons have failed to score in six of their last eight league matches, a run that has seem them take a meagre four points. Yet that didn’t stop Ardley undertaking an interview with the club’s iFollow Dons channel that will have had supporters scratching their heads.

‘When I looked at the stats in the last six games, they were massively in our favour,’ he said. ‘When they [the players] are not doing a lot wrong, you think that if you keep going it will turn, but then you get today.’

Ardley claimed that this performance was an exception for lacking intensity, which fans who have endured numerous mind-numbingly dull performances in recent weeks will no doubt have found bemusing, and said that being able to watch the games back afterwards gives him a ‘more educated opinion’ than supporters.

And despite recent questionable tactical decisions, he also seemed to criticise his players, saying: ‘The only people who can make things better are the players. I set the culture, I try to make sure they are aware of the opposition, and give them the freedom to play. ... When they go on the pitch and things don’t go well, you cannot [as a manager] do anything about it.’

The Dons started this match with the same XI that started the previous week’s tepid 0-0 draw against Rochdale, but were behind after just 10 minutes when Wes Thomas somehow managed to fend off the attentions of both Deji Oshilaja and Will Nightingale and fire home from just outside the box.

Ten minutes later the Dons had a chance of their own as Oxford struggled to clear but George Francomb’s snatched effort was narrowly off target with Simon Eastwood beaten, while Andy Barcham also flashed a shot just wide.

Moments after the half-time break Wimbledon had their solitary effort on target as Cody McDonald’s header seemed destined for the back of the net only for Eastwood to tip it over, and that was as good as it got for the visitors.

Minutes later Oxford were 2-0 ahead as James Henry’s cross found its way through to Ricardinho, who shot home from a narrow angle,

There was now a growing sense of the inevitable but it wasn’t until five minutes from the end that Oxford got their third. George Long saved the initial effort from Henry before substitute Xemi Fernández capitalised on the rebound.

The Dons now face a worryingly early ‘six pointer’ at Northampton on Saturday 14 October before following that up with a home game against Rotherham on Tuesday 17 October, and no doubt supporters will be hoping that the good performances transition from Ardley’s imagination and onto the pitch.

Oxford: Eastwood, Ribeiro, Nelson, Mousinho, Ferreira da Silva, Henry, Ruffels, Ledson, Rothwell, Payne (Mowatt 71), Thomas (van Kessell 67 (Fernández Codina 80)). Subs not used: Williamson, Martin, Shearer, Roberts.

Goalscorers: Thomas 12, Ferreira da Silva 48, Fernández Codina 85.

Wimbledon: Long, Fuller, Nightingale, Oshilaja, Francomb, Parrett (Forrester 45), Trotter, Barcham, Soares (Kaja 78), McDonald (Charles 61), Taylor. Subs not used: Robinson, Kennedy, McDonnell, Hartigan.

Att: 7,241.

By Rob Crane

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October 7, 2017