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Wimbledon view: Ardley wants to play more football as Dons look to progress

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AFC Wimbledon fan Ray Armfield (@kentwomble) gives us the lowdown on Saturday’s opponents as we talk a change in playing style, where the game may be won or lost and how their new stadium project is progressing.

Last season at Glanford Park, we were undone by a hardworking Wimbledon side that were tough to break down. Your captain Barry Fuller says that you have changed your style of play a lot over the summer, so how likely are we to see a different approach this time around?

It appears the main change will be to try and play a bit more football – especially at home. Our pitch has undergone the biggest summer makeover since we’ve played there, courtesy of Chelsea, who will shortly be taking the stadium over and moving their Ladies side in.

Add to that, Kingstonian have moved out to groundshare at Leatherhead so not only has it had plenty of TLC in readiness for this season, but it will also get a lot less wear and tear too. Also tactically, we currently don’t have an archetypical target man following the departure of Tom Elliott to Millwall, so we will need to adapt to that too.

You finished 15th last year- a respectable finish following promotion from League Two the summer before. Do you think you can improve on that this season?

15th was more than acceptable given our modest budget, although alarm bells rang a little at the way the goals dried up towards the end of the season where we failed to score in any of our last six games, so we could – and probably should – have finished in the top half. Most of our fanbase would probably accept the safety of mid-table this time around.

Jake Reeves left the club to join Bradford. How big a loss will he be?

He’ll be a big loss, given he was the metronome in our midfield and I think played more League 1 minutes last season than any other midfielder in the division. Everything went through him as the playmaker. It’ll be interesting to see how he performs in a supposedly ‘better’ team at Bradford and early indications are that he has impressed in pre-season.

We’ve recruited to replace him however, although I feel Reeves’ departure could open the way for Dean Parrett to feature. A similar style of player, although Dean is more attacking and can add goals.

Who has Neal Ardley signed this summer and who should we watch out for at the weekend?

Having lost Tom Elliott, sold Dom Poleon and released Tyrone Barnett, it’s the forward positions that have been up for grabs and incoming are Cody McDonald from Gillingham plus Ghanaian international Kwesi Appiah, who I expect both to get among the goals if we can keep them fit and firing.

We still have Lyle Taylor and Neal has said he is still on the lookout for a fourth striker to complement them. In midfield, we’ve added steel and experience in the shape of Jimmy Abdou and Liam Trotter who played together at Millwall, plus brought in Deji Oshilaja to add some pace and versatility at the back, in front of loanee goalkeeper George Long.

Any weak links we could exploit?

Having only seen us play in one pre-season game – a 3-2 win over a strong Watford side, where we played much of the second half with eight Academy products – I haven’t seen too many weaknesses yet, but if we can repeat last season’s defensive resilience at Glanford Park, I think we can ask plenty of questions at the other end too.

Where will the game be won or lost and have you got a prediction for us?

With us missing Jake Reeves and the ‘Iron losing Stephen Dawson over the summer, I see the midfield being a key area, barring a lapse of concentration or a moment of magic in either penalty box. I’m going to sit firmly on the fence and go for a 1-1 draw, with Madden and Taylor on the scoresheet.

Finally, how are things progressing with the new stadium?

We appointed a building contractor last week – Andrew Scott Ltd – who have built Hampshire’s Rose Bowl cricket ground Llanelli Scarlets rugby stadium and also done work at Stoke City. We are now just awaiting the S106 agreement to be finalised and signed off before work commences to flatten the existing site, hopefully by the end of the year, with a view to building a new ground in time for the 2019/20 season. Exciting times!

Written by Matt Blanchard

Part of the team since 2007, before becoming editor in 2013. Undertaken the role of match summariser during Scunthorpe United live match commentaries for BBC Radio Humberside. Seasonal contributor to football titles FourFourTwo and When Saturday Comes and a finalist at the Football Blogging Awards in 2014.

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