Double whammy of Dons annoyance has Ardley on the frustrated side of life

Frustrating times: Dons’ inability to defend set pieces has left Neal Ardley seething		              SP72027

Frustrating times: Dons’ inability to defend set pieces has left Neal Ardley seething SP72027

First published in Sport Wandsworth Guardian: Photograph of the Author by , Sports editor

After two months in the job, AFC Wimbledon boss Neal Ardley has admitted life is proving tougher than he had expected.

Ardley, who arrived at Kingsmeadow with a background of teaching the beautiful game at Cardiff City’s academy, says his philosophies of how the game should be played are taking a back seat to the dog-fight at the bottom of League Two.

The Dons boss was even more frustrated on Saturday after another failure to defend a set piece cost his side two points in a 1-1 draw at bottom club Barnet.

And life does not get any easier as promotion chasers Rotherham and Port Vale are next on the Dons radar.

Ardley, who has picked up nine points from a possible 30 since taking over at the beginning of October, says he is yet to instil in his players how he believes the beautiful game should be played.

He said: “Things are frustrating. I have my ideas on how to play football but I cannot implement them at the moment because we’re down at the bottom.

“We have to concentrate more on organisation and focus at the back because we’re shipping goals.

“When you do that all the time, it is tough to get our ideas across about how to go forward.”

The Dons have kept one clean sheet in 13 games, and although Ardley says he has seen an improvement, failure to defend set pieces is still haunting him.

“We work and work on set pieces in training. You take the players through it and get them organised as to who is picking up who over and over again,” Ardley said.

“It is about desire and delivery – the desire to want to put your head in there and the delivery of putting your head in there the right way.

“But it is down to individuals not letting their man score, and invariably if one man does his job, another doesn’t.”

He added: “There’s little else we can do on the training pitch, all we can do is bring in personnel who can do the job, and we’re working hard on that.”

The visit of Rotherham this weekend could be Steven Gregory’s last game for the Dons as his loan spell comes to an end on Sunday – although Ardley is keen to have the midfielder back in January.

Jason Prior, Byron Harrison, Charlie Strutton and Luke Moore are continuing their return from injury, while Callum McNaughton has joined Ryman Premier
Division side Kingstonian on loan.

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