AFC Wimbledon boss Neal Ardley is not about to duck below the parapet after a weekend to forget at the Cherry Red Records stadium.

Ardley described Saturday’s 2-0 defeat to relegation threatened Torquay United as drivel and ominously admitted he would have hauled off all 10 outfield players if he could.

But while he is ready to take the flak, Ardley is convinced he has the backing of the board even though Saturday’s shocker left the Dons just five points above the drop zone.

And life will get no easier for the Dons this weekend when they travel to League Two leaders Scunthorpe United.

Ardley said: “I try not to dress anything up to make things look better than they are.

“Some people look for excuses for the sake of their job, I try to say it as I see it. I could say we lost Harry Pell to sickness on Saturday morning and that was a big blow, but that is what we had to deal with and the performance was not good enough.

“I would be very surprised if there were rumblings from the board. Are we playing poorly consistently and looking like a bad team? No we are not.

“We played really well at Dagenham, really well at Wycombe and well for an hour at Plymouth Argyle.

“Are we not learning well enough on seeing games out and winning games? Probably, and I am working hard on that.

“Do we need to strengthen? Yes, absolutely. We are thin on the ground, but I am trying not to rush into it and just bring people in for the sake of it I know the kind of players I want.”

Ardley’s peril is worsened by his belief that Michael Smith is unlikely to return to the Dons.

Having gone back to Charlton Athletic, a mixture of new club owners and postponements have limited Smith’s chances to impress Addicks boss Darren Powell.

Ardley said: “It is 75 per cent likely he will be a Charlton player until the end of the season.

“I have got to come up with a solution to the problem that one of our best players is not going to be with us.”

Alan Bennett and George Francomb remained doubtful for Saturday, while new signing Aaron Morris, Chris Arthur, Charlie Sheringham and Jim Fenlon all had time in the U21s in mid-week in an effort to return to full fitness.