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First team

Media view: AFC Wimbledon

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

Ahead of the Cherries' first pre-season friendly at La Manga Club, afcb.co.uk got the lowdown on AFC Wimbledon from South London Press sports editor Richard Cawley.

Wally Downes’s team, which included Cherries loan star Aaron Ramsdale, pulled off a great escape from relegation last season to preserve their League One status on a dramatic final day.

afcb.co.uk: How has pre-season gone so far?

RC: They have had quite a tough start to pre-season, playing Brentford and Bristol City, two teams which are fancied to go well in the Championship this season.

They also had to very good workouts against Kaiserslautern and Kickers Offenbach during a mini-tour to Germany last week. They went down narrowly in both games.

Against Bristol City, they struggled a bit initially but came back strongly and losing 3-2 wasn’t a bad result.

There were signs of promise in the Brentford game but the quality of Brentford’s attack play came through and they ran out 3-0 winners.  

They have gone for strong opposition to start pre-season and there is quite a jump between League One and Championship class and I think that’s what they have found.

There have been reasons for optimism and a couple of the new signings have started well.

afcb.co.uk: What's your take on the new signings?

RC: One of the ones who has done well so far is Nesta Guinness-Walker, a 19-year-old left-back they signed from Met Police. He’s looked athletic and quick and looks a decent young talent.

Wally Downes isn’t too worried about always buying players who are proved at a certain level, he backs his judgement of a player because he’s got such a long coaching career behind him.

Adam Roscrow is a 24-year-old forward they signed from Welsh Premier League club Cardiff Metropolitan University.

He has played for Wales C and there was initially talk of him coming in on a trial but they signed him permanently. He scored a few goals last season and helped them qualify for the Europa League.

He was dubbed in Wales as the Welsh Jamie Vardy. He’s got that off-the-shoulder playing style.

Michael Folivi has returned on loan from Watford. He’s a number 10 and is quick and tricky.

He came here in January and although he didn’t play a lot in the run-in, I think we will see a lot more of him this season.

Luke O’Neill is a right-back who was released by Gillingham. I haven’t seen a lot of him yet but he’s pretty experienced and a solid defender.

They have gone for another young goalkeeper on loan in Nathan Trott (pictured above) from West Ham. It’s his first loan so it’s always a bit of a gamble but he’s been capped at youth level by England and has recently signed a long-term contract at West Ham.

afcb.co.uk: What sort of team can we expect against the Cherries?

RC: Potentially, I think they will go a little closer to the team which will start the new season and field their strongest side.

They haven’t got too many friendlies left after this game so it will be a good chance to size up players against quality opposition. It will give Wally a much better idea about some of the players in his squad.

I think they will go pretty strong and probably have some of the younger ones and ones he may not view as starters coming off the bench in the second half.

acb.co.uk: How key was Aaron Ramsdale in avoiding relegation last season?

RC: He was huge.

Former boss Neal Ardley brought in Tom King from Millwall for the first half of the season and I don’t think it totally worked out.

Wally Downes brought in Ramsdale and he was the absolute undisputed number one. The fans loved him and he was really solid.

If Wally could have brought him back this season, he would have moved heaven and earth to do so. But he’s gone beyond Wimbledon and Wally reckons in years to come, Wimbledon fans can look back and know we had him playing for us for a period of time.

They loved him.

afcb.co.uk: Who is their player to watch?

RC: Joe Pigott (pictured above).

He’s an ex-Charlton player who was signed from Maidstone in January 2018.

He’s a target man and is also relatively mobile. He had a really good season in 2018/19.

He scored 18 goals and there has been a bit of talk about him moving this summer. He got some big goals during the run-in to help keep them up, including a hat-trick in a 4-3 win at Rochdale in February.

afcb.co.uk: What’s your view on manager Wally Downes?

RC: Just after he came in, they had a couple of dreadful performances and I was convinced they would be going down. I thought there was no chance they could get out of it.

It just proves it isn’t over until it’s over because they got stronger as they went along. He tightened them up defensively and picked apart the holes almost straight away.

Before he came in, the connection between the fans, the players and the management had gone a bit. Wally coming in as a Wimbledon legend with Glyn Hodges, another huge favourite, as his assistant got the fans back on board and I think he was quite astute.

He fed off that. He got players in who would run through walls for him and did a brilliant job. It went to the wire and it couldn’t have got much more nervy than the final day at Bradford knowing they still needed a positive result.

He’s done a fantastic job since he’s been here.

Follow Richard Cawley on Twitter – @RichCawleySLP

The live stream of the AFC Wimbledon game will begin approximately five minutes ahead of kick-off and will be available at the below link.

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