Folivi's feistiness is blueprint for AFC Wimbledon's approach
It is going to be another challenging season for AFC Wimbledon in League One – but at least in the feisty Michael Folivi, they have someone to show them the way forward.
Pre-season is usually all about fitness levels, getting to know new teammates and fine-tuning skills. But the competitive instinct shown by the 21-year-old on Tuesday night bodes well for him and for the Dons.
Back-to-back friendlies at home to Championship sides Brentford and Bristol City this week proved difficult exercises and against Bristol City this week, Wally Downes men were deprived of the ball for long spells.
They lost Friday night's encounter with the Bees 3-0 at Kingsmeadow and an even more chastening evening looked in store when City took a 3-0 lead early in the second half.
Yet it sparked Folivi into life and he was the fulcrum of a fighting display, which culminated in two penalties, the second of which Folivi tucked away himself three minutes from the end.
The striker, re-signed on loan from Watford, having endured a fitful time with the Dons last campaign, was also unlucky not to score with a rasping rising shot that was tipped over by the visitors' keeper.
The 3-2 defeat was perhaps not a reflection of the away side's overall dominance but offered good signs of the competitiveness that lurks within the squad.
Downes will need it. He worked miracles last season to pull off the great escape and it took a spectacular run of just one defeat in the final 12 matches to see the Dons finish just above the dotted line. Even them, the 50 points they mustered meant they beat the drop only on goal difference at the expense of Plymouth Argyle.
“He was terrific,” said boss Wally Downes. “Michael has a little edge to him. I know he felt a little perturbed at the end of last season when I couldn’t get him in the team and he used to come and tell me about it every Monday morning.
I don’t mind that though and he always put the effort in during training and was available for us. Hopefully, he will have a much greater chance to play more this season.”
Downes was happy with the test against one of the teams pushing for promotion to the Premier League last season.
“It was great,” he said. “You see some of the young players come on and realise how sharp, bright, aware, and physically strong you must be to progress as a footballer.
“If they hadn’t played against that then they got a short, sharp shock, but if they coped with it, that’s great. If they didn’t cope with it, then they know what they have to do to progress in their careers.”
Downes added: “We got through it with no injuries and it was a good fitness run-out, that was the aim of the game, and to get everyone an equal amount of time on the pitch. We’ve played two games at home now and everyone has had the exact number of minutes, so the fitness is improving as a group.
“This game was a bit different to the Brentford match because of the way the two teams approached it. They had a strong side out in the first-half and they changed it a little bit and we had a little bit more energy and strength in the second-half because our players were fresh when they came on.
“There was no real credence in the results of both home games. It was just about what the players got from the games with 60 minutes and 30 minutes swapped around.”