Cook: AFC Wimbledon Match Will Define Our Season
Monday, 12th Apr 2021 13:37
Boss Paul Cook believes Tuesday evening's game at AFC Wimbledon will define the Blues’ season.
Town go into their first ever match at the Dons’ new Plough Lane stadium sitting eighth in League One, three points off the play-offs, having played a game more than sixth-placed Lincoln City, with seven fixtures remaining.
They have drawn three of their last four 0-0 and have won just two of the nine games since Cook took charge just over a month ago, both at home.
Asked what he has made of Wimbledon, who are 20th, a point off the relegation zone, this season, Cook said: “We’ve just played Wigan, Rochdale and MK Dons, who are obviously a little bit higher in the league, and there was nothing in the games
“You would never know that we’re one big club and someone else is in a relegation fight.
“The games are a little bit a much of a muchness. A margin in the game wins the game. I think Wimbledon have gone away from home and had a fantastic result on Saturday [they won 5-1 at Accrington].
“That will absolutely buoy their lads to the top of their tiptoes because they’ll see us coming into town now as a scalp that they want to take.
“They will be bang up for the game and they will put it up to us from the first minute.
“It’s a massive game for us this season, it will define our season in my eyes.
“We have to go there and win. We have to go there and create more chances, we have to be so much braver in our play. Can we do that? Watch this space.”
Cook will again be assessing whether to make changes of personnel and his system as he looks to improve Town going forward with the Blues without a goal in 259 minutes and even worse without a shot on target in 218.
Tomas Holy will start in goal having made one or two important saves against the MK Dons on Saturday and Cook will probably stick with a back four.
Kane Vincent-Young is back in the squad following his hamstring injury and could start, which would see Luke Woolfenden drop to the bench.
Skipper Luke Chambers and Toto Nsiala will almost certainly be the centre-halves with Stephen Ward probably at left-back although with Myles Kenlock an alternative.
In midfield, Cook could continue with Flynn Downes and Teddy Bishop in the centre, although Andre Dozzell is another option.
Out wide, Cook has options with Dozzell having started in a narrow left-sided role on Saturday and Gwion Edwards on the right. Alan Judge, Keanan Bennetts and Armando Dobra are other alternatives.
Tristan Nydam impressed from the bench on Saturday but is unlikely to be considered ready for a start with the weekend game his first senior competitive appearance for precisely two years.
Dobra might be more likely to continue in the role he played on Saturday behind the main striker, who will be James Norwood if the ex-Tranmere man is considered fit enough.
Otherwise, Aaron Drinan or Oli Hawkins might get the nod, the former Portsmouth man having not yet made a start under Cook. Kayden Jackson is another option assuming the ex-Accrington man, who wasn’t involved at the weekend, is fit.
Wimbledon, the only side in the division Town haven’t previously faced this season, claimed a surprise 5-1 win at Accrington on Saturday, only their second victory in 11.
At home they have won just one of their last six - a 1-0 defeat of Northampton late last month - with their overall record an unimpressive won four, drawn four and lost 10. They have picked up only 16 of their 39 points on their own turf.
The Dons will be without centre-half Ben Heneghan, who was sent off in the final minute at Accrington at the weekend for two bookable offences. Paul Kalambayi is expected to deputise.
On-loan Leicester defender Darnell Johnson and midfielder Callum Reilly remain sidelined, while forward Corie Andrews is continuing his recovery from injury but is not expected to face the Blues.
Town and AFC Wimbledon had never met anywhere in a competitive or friendly fixture since the Dons’ formation in 2002 until last season’s games.
The Blues first and only match at Kingsmeadow in February last year ended in a frustrating 0-0 draw.
Town dominated possession throughout and hit the bar throughout James Norwood in the first half, while a number of better opportunities were spurned in the second.
At Portman Road in August 2019, Kayden Jackson’s goal deep, deep in injury time saw the Blues come from behind to claim a dramatic 2-1 victory.
The Dons went ahead via Nesta Guinness-Walker in the 41st minute in a poor first period from Town.
But the Blues were much better in the second half, equalising through Norwood in the 81st minute before Jackson smashed in the late winner.
The Dons squad includes former Blues youngster Shane McLoughlin, who made one Championship sub appearance and one League Cup start for Town having come through the academy. The New York-born Irishman joined the Dons from the Blues in January 2018.
Keeper Sam Walker, who signed on loan from Reading in January, was a Portman Road season ticket holder as a child.
Tuesday’s referee is Antony Coggins from Bicester, who has shown 72 yellow cards and four red in 24 games so far this season.
Coggins’s last Town game was the 1-0 home victory over Gillingham in October in which he booked Bishop, Dozzell and one visiting player.
He was also in charge of the 1-0 defeat at Rotherham in January 2020 in which he booked Woolfenden, Emyr Huws and one Miller.
Coincidentally, he also refereed the 2-1 home victory over AFC Wimbledon in August 2019 in which he cautioned Janoi Donacien and three of the visitors.
Squad from: Holy, Cornell, Vincent-Young, Chambers (c), Ward, Nsiala, Woolfenden, McGuinness, Dozzell, Skuse, Nydam, Judge, Harrop, Bishop, Downes, Edwards, Bennetts, Lankester, Sears, Norwood, Jackson, Parrott, Hawkins, Drinan.
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