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Dons boss Ardley marks anniversary with Stanley stalemate
6:00am Monday 14th October 2013 in Sport
Close: Dons skipper Alan Bennett looks on as his side go close at the weekend, but the defender would have the last laugh
Neal Ardley celebrated a year in charge of AFC Wimbledon last week, and admited his first 12 months as a manager had been one hell of a ride.
Skipper Alan Bennett's 86th minute strike ensured the 41-year-old did not mark his anniversary with a defeat as the Dons fought back to secure a 1-1 draw with Accrington Stanley at home on Saturday.
Ardley dramatically kept the Dons in the Football League in May, almost led them to victory against their fiercest rivals from Milton Keynes, and has almost completely revolutionised the Dons playing staff.
A good start to this season, which saw Wimbledon in the automatic promotion places, has tailed off with back-to-back defeats, but the Kingsmeadow chief is happy with the job he has done in difficult circumstances.
“I was brought in to do a job and we did it and I am very proud of that – staying up was a huge achievement with what was there,” he said.
“I’m proud of what we have achieved in a year and I would like to think the board think the club is going in a good direction.
“There is a lot that has happened behind the scenes too which you don’t expect people to know and it will hopefully come out in the way the club moves forward.
“Last season did drag a bit as it was a tough season.
“The first three months were difficult, simply because we had 10 players injured and a group that were not fit physically. We had a run of Saturday, Tuesday games and we had used up all our emergency loans so we couldn’t tap into that market.
“It was a case of getting to January so we could build up then, and I think since January we are something like eighth in the league on form.
“But the adversity we faced in that run in last season, when we weren’t winning games, has stood me in good stead and I have learned a lot – though I am not going to stop learning for 20 years if I stay in the game that long.”
Ardley had a 34 per cent winning percentage from his 50 games in charge prior to yesterday's stalemate that came a week after a disappointing 2-0 defeat to Northampton Town that had ended Wimbledon’s 100 per cent home record.
Only seven players remain from the Terry Brown era – Luke Moore and Sammy Moore the only ones to start against the Cobblers last week – and Ardley is pleased to have his own squad now to shape the way he wants going forward.
“It’s my team now. Up until January I could hide behind what I took over, now I can’t and won’t try to,” he said.
“We have a different task on our hands now with the expectations and we have to make sure we deliver a different style of football and be pleasing on the eye in the way we play.”
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