Basking in the glory of their second home victory, Bristol Rovers travel eastwards to AFC Wimbledon in an effort to gain their second away win. On Saturday the Dons earned their first league point under new manager Neal Ardley as they drew against Fleetwood.
Ardley’s side fell behind after just 10 minutes when Steven Gillespie finished off a flowing counter attack following a Dons corner. With just under half and hour to go the visitors pulled level as Byron Harrison headed home Rashid Yussuff's accurate free-kick.
Despite late Fleetwood pressure, where chances fell to David Ball and Barry Nicholson, the Londoners survived to earn their first away draw of the season.
Speaking after the game Ardley said, "I would have enjoyed it more if we had nicked a second goal late on. We keep falling behind in games but today we showed a little bit of courage. We pressed them really well and got back in the game I'm really, really pleased with the boys.
“It got a bit scrappy in the first-half, but during the second-half more of what we had worked on during the week came out. It was disappointing to fall behind in the first-half. We are trying to cut that out and it was a calamitous goal to concede. In the second-half, it was all about us being a bit braver.
“I stepped out from the dug-out into the technical area to try and encourage our players to get onto the front foot. If they can hear me encouraging them, then there is no fear of us going forward. It was better in the second-half and with a bit more quality in the final third we could have nicked it.
“We are trying to get them to play as a team and to do their shifts for each other. When you are near the bottom and you fall behind, then you have to keep believing. Hopefully, after today they will have a bit more belief, but it does not count as a good result unless we pick up a couple of wins.”
Last season Rovers’ opening day fixture saw Paul Buckle’s team visit Kingsmeadow for the South London team’s debut in League football. The live televised game was a good indicator of how things would pan out.
Goals by McGleish and Harrold had Rovers cruising within 20 minutes. AFC then fought back and Stuart was on the scoresheet 7 minutes before half-time. On 67 minutes Kingsmeadow erupted as Ademeno pulled AFC level. It was left for Adam Virgo to spoil the party with an 84th minute penalty to take all 3 points back down the M4 to Bristol.
Rovers should have had the game out of Wimbledon's reach by half time, but allowed their hosts to get back on level terms before they settled things with that late penalty. Paul Buckle’s team contained ten players making their Rovers league debut.
News from Wimbledon is that midfielder Sammy Moore is definitely out with the knee injury that he suffered at Fleetwood on Saturday. Club captain Mat Mitchel-King returned to full training after recovering from a back injury, but he will not be ready for this game.
Simon Basey, Wimbledon’s first team coach and former Caretaker Manager after Terry Brown’s sacking in September, says he has enjoyed being a part of the new approach brought in by Neal Ardley and Neil Cox since their appointments two weeks ago.
“After being asked to stay on, it was quite an easy decision for me to make and I have thoroughly enjoyed working with them. They have brought in a lot of new ideas for training and it is a good learning curve for me also.”
“We are heading in the right direction so hopefully we can get a win. Fleetwood are third in the table and anyone who saw the game would say that there was nothing between the two sides so we have to take the positives from that and start trying to climb the table.”
Meanwhile Don’s striker Byron Harrison believes the battling draw at Fleetwood could be a turning point for his team this season. His seventh goal of the campaign rewarded an improved second-half display at Highbury Stadium and the 25-year-old believes there will be better to come under Ardley.
“Fleetwood are a really determined team and they gave us a few problems. It was a hard game for us and a hard-fought point. Hopefully, this is now the start of something for us because I think the squad is better than our league position reflects.
“The new manager has come in with good ideas. We just have to keep working hard in training to so that those ideas work in games. Our intensity was better in the second-half, we showed a lot of character to battle back, and I thought that we finished strongly.”
“I always aim to score every time I go onto the pitch. At the moment it is happening for me and I am really happy, especially when we get three points from games. I just needed to make sure my head was right and it is just hard work that is paying off. I knew that I could score goals in this league and thankfully I am showing that now.
“Jack Midson is a very good striker and he gives us something different when he plays. I like working with him. Jack and the rest of the team worked so hard to get something from the game and I am so pleased that we managed to do that.
"There are a lot of new patterns in training, which we are trying to execute in games. It will take time for it to gel, but I am sure we will get better and start getting three points regularly.”
With just one loss in seven games Mark McGhee can see the upper echelons opening up for his team. In order to be able to climb the table his team need to start picking up victories ‘on the road’, the win at Exeter was vitally important and proved the springboard for two home wins. A second away win is eagerly awaited.
Written by Gerry Prewett.