Cobblers’ January recruitment has impressed Dons boss Ardley

AFC Wimbledon boss Neal Ardley
AFC Wimbledon boss Neal Ardley

AFC Wimbledon boss Neal Ardley says he has been impressed by the Cobblers’ January recruitment ahead of the Sky Bet League One clash between the two sides on Saturday.

Town travel to take on the Dons at the Cherry Red Records Stadium looking to bounce back from their 1-0 Sixfields defeat to Rochdale last weekend, and Ardley is anticipating a difficult and close encounter.

This is a game that both teams in their position are desperate to get something from, they don’t want the other team getting away from them, or overtaking them, so there is that element mentally

AFC Wimbledon boss Neal Ardley

“Jimmy has recruited really well, and they have done some good business,” said the Dons manager.

“They have brought nine in, reshaped the team and had some good results, although they were disappointed last weekend.

“This is a game that both teams in their position are desperate to get something from, they don’t want the other team getting away from them, or overtaking them, so there is that element mentally.

“But there are plenty of games to go and plenty of points to put on the board, and we have to go out and approach it the same as any other game, and if we play like we did in January, we will be a hard team to play against.”

After going through January unbeaten, the Dons have lost their opening two fixtures in February, going down 2-0 at Doncaster Rovers last Saturday and 2-1 at Bury on Tuesday, and that means they go into this weekend’s game just one point and one place above fifth-bottom Cobblers.

Hasselbaink has spoken about how flat his team were in the loss to Dale last week, and how much that performance hurt him, and Ardley has been experiencing similar emotions following the midweek loss at Gigg Lane.

“There were so many things wrong in the first-half, so many things that came away from the core values that we try to instil into the team that we had certainly shown in January,” said the Dons boss.

“I was pretty shocked by what I saw for 45 minutes.

“It’s hard as a manager when you have to change system and shape, bring subs on, just to try and effect the game.

“The boys had to see it, not because you are looking to dig anyone out, or show anyone up. We just have to see when we are not good, why, and what the reasons are.

“You cannot hide from it. We did that on Thursday morning and you draw a line under it, we move on and we try to put it right for the next games.”

The game against the Cobblers is the Dons’ first at home since January 20, and only their second on their own patch since New Year’s Day.

Five of their past six matches have been on the road, and Ardley admits he is looking forward to some home comforts, especially as his team has won their past three matches at the Cherry Red.

“It feels like a while since we had a home game, I think we’ve only had two in five or so weeks, he said.

“Our form at home has been okay lately, and the atmosphere at the games has been really good.

“So after playing on the pitch at Bury, it will be nice to get back on our pitch which is in good nick, and we are looking forward to it.

“We always try to go out and get going, nobody ever means to start in a lethargic way, we are not a team that plays well playing so anyway.

“I would think Northampton will say the same, and the same thing probably gets said in every dressing room up and down the country, you know ‘let’s start fast and get at them’.

“We are at home, obviously Northampton have had the benefit of Saturday to Saturday games, whereas we have had a midweek game, so we have to try and look at where we freshen things up.”