Boss Neal Ardley has defended his forward thinking strategy despite a lack of goals this season.

Six recognised strikers have led the Dons attack since the summer, making a total of 112 appearances, but with a meagre return of just 21 goals in all competitions.

As a club, Dons have scored only 43 goals – the fourth lowest in League Two.

Ardley also defended his loan policy, which has seen nine players come and go through the doors at the Cherry Red Records stadium this season.

Michael Smith, the most successful of the loan moves, bagged 10 goals in his 25 appearances before returning to Charlton Athletic in January.

Since then, however, loanees Danny Hylton (three goals in 13 appearances) and Charlie Wyke (two in 17) have not sparkled, and Kwesi Appiah is yet to get off the mark in two outings.

Jack Midson, who scored the penalty winner at Southend on Saturday, has only five goals in 35 appearances this season, while summer signing Charlie Sheringham mustered just one in 16 outings before being loaned to Salisbury City.

Ardley said: “We have stuttered this season, and I know the reason is that all too often the scoreline has read ‘AFC Wimbledon 0’.

“We have worked so hard on the training pitch to put the stats in the strikers’ favour and that is working – in the Bristol Rovers game we had 33 crosses and 17 attempts on goal, but it still finished 0-0.

“All we can do is give them the service, but I admit that not every time I have put a pairing together it has worked. But our strikers are good players and we must learn to take responsibility for goals as a team.”

Dons face a double header this weekend starting with the visit of Newport County this afternoon [Friday] before the long trip to Newport County on Monday.

The win over Southend lifted the Dons to 14th in League Two, six points above the dropzone, and featured a fine display from Appiah, who won the decisive penalty, giving credence to Ardley’s loan policy.

He said: “We’re trying to build the best team we can with the budget we have.

“I could buy a player on £1,000 a week from a lower level club and he might turn out to be standard, or I can get a loan player from a higher level club on £500 a week, and he proves much better. Of course we’ll go with the latter.”

Ahead of this afternoon’s clash with Newport, Ardley is sweating on the fitness of Tom Richards and Kevin Sainte-Luce, while Alan Bennett and Sam Moore are available.