Neal Ardley Under More Pressure Following AFC Wimbledon's Plymouth Defeat

AFC Wimbledon 0 v 1 Plymouth Argyle

AFC Wimbledon supporters are again questioning the future of manager Neal Ardley after blaming him for the team’s 1-0 home defeat against Plymouth Argyle on Saturday (21 October).

The Dons appeared to give their season a massive boost during the midweek win against Rotherham United, during which Harry Forrester played with freedom in a central attacking midfield role that helped give the team a high tempo they often lack.

But against Plymouth – a side at the bottom of the table with just one win all season and an injury list that would make a hospital ward seem quiet – Ardley effectively nullified the Dons’ main potency by putting Forrester on the wing, replacing him in the central attacking role with Liam Trotter – a comparatively low-tempo defensive midfielder.

Predictably, the Dons failed to get going. It wasn’t until towards the end of the match, after Forrester was finally moved to a central role, that things started to look promising but by then it was too late.

And afterwards, instead of reflecting on his own tactical choices, Ardley appeared to criticise his players while stating that the performance was ‘okay’. ‘What do I say to our boys?’ he asked rhetorically on the club’s iFollow Dons channel. ‘I have said my piece and I am annoyed that we've lost. It was my fear that we would switch off and it was everything that we told them not to do.

‘It annoyed me that I had to change shape three times to try to get us into a position to score. Ultimately, the performance was okay, but we have lost 1-0.’

Despite being pushed out wide, Forrester came closest for the Dons during a low-key first period when he sent in a shot from outside the box that was narrowly off target. The Dons struggled to break down a defensive Plymouth side and that continued into the second period.

The visitors took the lead just after the hour when they won possession deep in their own half following a failed Lyle Taylor backheel. Graham Carey charged down the right flank, cut inside George Francomb and then smuggled the ball through a gaggle of Wimbledon defenders to Joel Grant who converted from close range.

Ardley’s tactical changes did eventually prompt Wimbledon to rally and twice they forced good saves from visiting keeper Remi Matthews. First he tipped over a header from Cody McDonald that seemed destined for the back of the net, then he did the same from an edge-of-the-box Forrester shot.

But it was too little, too late for the Dons, leaving their supporters to wonder what might have been had Ardley adopted a more positive stance from the start. They will be hoping for an improved display when the Dons travel to Charlton on 28 October, before hosting Lincoln City in the first round of the FA Cup.

Wimbledon: Long, Fuller, Nightingale, Charles, Francomb (Kaja 78), Forrester, Soares, Trotter, Abdou (McDonald 60), Barcham, Taylor. Subs not used: Oshilaja, Robinson, Kennedy, McDonnell, Hartigan.

Booked: Fuller 40, Barcham 50.

Plymouth: Matthews, Taylor-Sinclair, Edwards, Bradley, Sawyer, Songo’o, Grant (Miller 91), Diagouraga, Fox, Carey, Jervis (Blissett 83). Subs not used: Sarcevic, Ainsworth, Wylde, Fletcher, Cooper.

Goalscorer: Grant 64.

Att: 4,848.

By Rob Crane

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October 23, 2017