A detailed look at tomorrow's opponents
On Saturday Bristol Rovers entertain an AFC Wimbledon team who sit just outside the Play Off spots on 26 points. The West London team have had a very successful November, in the league to date with two wins and two draws from their four games. One of those victories was the 4-0 demolition of Portsmouth.
The last of those two draws was on Tuesday night when AFC were held by Dagenham and Redbridge at Kingsmeadow. On loan Charlton striker Michael Smith put the home team ahead on 28 minutes, a dinked ball into the box from Peter Sweeney found the head of Smith who lifted it over Lewington.
Rhys Murphy equalised for the Essex team on 58 minutes with a shot from the edge of the area. It was Murphy’s ninth successful strike of the season. Kaid Mohamed, Harry Pell and Smith all came close for the home team as they tried to capture all 3 points.
Wimbledon Boss Neil Ardley said after the game, “Of course we want to win, we're at home, and I'm sure the fans will be a bit disappointed that we haven't beaten Dagenham. As the first-half wore on we got a little bit more into it and got the players into positions we wanted them to and because of that we got a little bit more control.
“At half-time we talked about getting our one v one defending right and our shape and if we got that right our chances would come at the other end. We switched off a bit. Rhys Murphy found himself with time to line up the shot. It's just little things and we got punished for it.”
Just over two years ago Rovers’ travelled up to Kingsmeadow for the opening day of the season as the West London team made their debut in League football.
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.
In the home game last season played on 6 April, Tom Hitchcock scored his first ever league goal in the 83rd minute. Tounkara put the ball into the path of the young striker who shot home from 12 yards out. Hitchcock could have made it 2-0 after getting on the end of a Broghammer cross, but he headed wide of the right hand post.
In total there has been just 4 games between the clubs with 3 Rovers victories and 1 to AFC.
One player who has had a foot in both camps is Harry Pell and the ex-Charlton player believes that his side’s four-match unbeaten league run shows that Wimbledon have what it takes to maintain their improved form this season.
He has identified their recent solidity at the back (they have conceded just three goals in four games) as a cause for optimism.
Pell said: “The positive signs are that we don’t really look like we are going to concede in games now. It was a great goal that Rhys Murphy scored for Dagenham. On other days I have seen us lose games like that. Dagenham came out of the blocks fast. The manager had told us that they would be energetic and fast so we did a lot of work to combat that.
“We tried to lift it in the second-half, but myself, Sammy Moore and Peter Sweeney in midfield did not get as much of a foothold in the game as we would have wanted. It was a little bit disappointing because three points would have been massive for us.
“We look strong though and we need to take the positives into Saturday. We battled for 90 minutes and hopefully we can keep that up, play a bit more football, and get three points on the board at Bristol. We will dust ourselves down and go there on the back of four games unbeaten. We will take that because it can only build confidence.”
Reflecting on Michael Smith’s form, Pell said, “Michael shows it in training and he is on fire at the moment. It was a great goal that he got and he has scored another eight like that this season. He is showing what he can do with his performances on the pitch and he is doing really well at the moment.”
Written by Gerry Prewett.