Players not at their best for AFC Wimbledon homecoming, but return means everything, says Hodges
Glyn Hodges admits the occasion got to his players a little, as their first game back on spiritual ground ended in a 2-2 draw.
AFC Wimbledon began a new chapter in their wonderfully chequered history with a below-par performance but nearly eked out a win thanks to two Joe Pigott goals.
Only an injury-time strike gave Doncaster Rovers a share of the spoils in the end, although no-one could argue it was not deserved because the visitors were the better side.
“It’s a great night,” said the Dons boss. “It was emotional and I think the players were affected by it a little bit, but I’m just pleased now that we’ve had the first game, got a point, scored some goals and hopefully in the next home game in 10 days’ time we can put on a better performance and enjoy our surroundings.
“We know where the net is at both ends anyway – that's the main thing.
“We spoke about staying calm and just playing our football, but it affects everybody differently and it was quite emotional coming through the gates and coming out at the start, so while some cope better than others, I felt collectively the group wasn’t at its best.
“For me, you’ve got to keep it in check, but with the interviews you do, you do get goose bumps and the hairs on the back of your neck stick up. If I do think about it, it does gets to you, it does get you emotional but you’ve got to get your business head on and get it out of the way.”
Hodges added: “It was a great result. The performance wasn’t very good. It was our worst performance of the season, although our goals oozed quality, and to get something out of it was important.
“To stay in the game and still have a chance to win it at the end is testament to the boys and how well they’ve done.
“To get that second goal with about seven or eight minutes to go, you think ‘yes, here we go.’ Sadly, it wasn’t to be, but we picked up a positive point in maybe not such a great performance.
“At the end of the day, though, probably the result isn’t as important as the fact we’re playing here. We didn’t lose and we’re off to a good start.”
Hodges believes the real homecoming is yet to come, even if last night was so very special. He says the return of the fans will make it feel even more like home.
“We’ve played our first game and it will be another big party when the fans come here,” he said. “There will another homecoming here. It will be another emotional night.
“That will be 10 times more emotional than this because there won’t be a dry eye in the house. It will be special. Before then, we just want to make sure we’re comfortable with our surroundings and we pick up some valuable points here. Now, we just want to settle down. It’s a great place to play.
“We did things a bit differently today. Normally we drive in, but we got a coach in and the preparation was a bit different tonight and it wasn’t quite like a home match that would be the norm, so you knew there was something a little bit different about it.”
Speaking about Pigott’s contribution, Hodges said: “It was great for him to score at both ends – and they are both great goals as well. He’s been the main man for us for last couple of years, so he’ll be pleased and hopefully there will be more to come at this stadium.”