AFC Wimbledon v Bristol Rovers Match Preview
By Simon Gray
Two teams that have both consolidated their League One status after promotion meet with just five games to go as AFC Wimbledon entertain Bristol Rovers at Kingsmeadow.
Rovers go into the game still dreaming of a play-off place following their 2-0 victory at home to Shrewsbury last weekend.
But with Rovers will quickly have to address their away form if they want any chance of making the top six. Rovers play three of their final five league games away from the Memorial Stadium but have only won four of their last 20 away league matches and manager Darrell Clarke is keen to tackle his side’s poor form on their travels.
“It certainly needs to be addressed,” he told the Bristol Post.
“We’re looking into everything, but we’ve been unfortunate at times away from home.
“I thought we played well at Bramall Lane, and unfortunate at Southend – I thought a penalty decision cost us two points. Chesterfield away we were by far the better team, and we’ve had disappointing performances at Shrewsbury and Port Vale – we drew that one. We were also outstanding at Bolton.
“It’s fine lines – we’re addressing that between now and end of the season and into the new season.”
Clarke will probably be without Peter Hartley, although the goal scoring defender has returned to full training following an Achilles injury. Clarke may also be without midfielder Ollie Clarke who limped off during the win over Shrewsbury but striker Ellis Harrison is in contention for a starting role after he was named on the bench last time out.
Wimbledon meanwhile are four places behind Rovers, sitting in 13th but are in fairly inconsistent form, picking up two wins, one draw and three defeats in their last six games.
The Dons won their last home game though against one of Rovers’ rivals for sixth place, scoring three goals in four minutes to beat Rochdale 3-1.
Manager Neal Ardley’s has a selection headache on his hands though with a bug hitting the squad as well as injuries.
“We’ve had a real glut of illness as three or four players have gone down with stomach bugs and I am 90 per cent sure it will rule them out of Saturday”, Ardley told the club’s website.
“We also have a couple of injuries so we are definitely going to be five key first-team players short on Saturday, which is a real blow for us, particularly when we want to respond to a defeat.
“We always look at it and think that it brings an opportunity for others. We will have a look at the personnel and look at the best way to tackle Bristol Rovers. As long as the team that we put out goes out there and gives everything and really has a proper go, showing that passion that the club deserves, no one can complain.”
Rovers’ on-loan Stoke defender Ryan Sweeney started his career at AFC Wimbledon, spending 10 years in the academy before making 13 appearances for the senior side.
The reverse fixture between these two sides ended with Rovers winning 2-0 on New Year’s Eve at the Memorial Stadium.
The last time these two sides met at Kingsmeadow ended in a 0-0 draw last season. Defender Paul Robinson was sent off after four minutes for the Dons.