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  • Writer's pictureBy Dan Evans

“We were better than them, but they won”: Dons boss assesses Stevenage defeat

AFC Wimbledon manager Johnnie Jackson was left questioning how his side currently find themselves marooned in the middle of League Two following a strong display against promotion chasers Stevenage.

The Dons were beaten 3-2 by Steve Evans’s men but took the lead in the first half through Ali Al-Hamadi and looked well placed to get something from the game when Al-Hamadi drew them level with 15 minutes to play.

Wimbledon have already beaten league leaders Leyton Orient this season and have taken points from promotion hopefuls Northampton and Carlisle in recent weeks, yet they currently sit nine points shy of the play-off places.

“I’m getting a bit sick of saying it. We are where we are and they are where they are, and if you’re going to concede the type of goals we have tonight then that’s probably the reason why,” said Jackson.

“It’s frustrating because I think we showed that we are a really good team tonight. For long periods we were the dominant team and caused them a lot of problems, but we walk off with nothing to show for it.

“I’m in football to win. We can pat ourselves on the back tonight and say we created loads and played really well. I thought we were better than them, but they won. They’re at the top and we’re in midtable. I know where I’d rather be.”

The defeat means that Wimbledon have now won just once since the turn of the year, and a recent injury crisis has done little to help matters.

A busy January transfer window left Jackson feeling as though his squad was in a strong position to approach the second half of the season, but he was only able to name five players on the bench against Stevenage.

A first-half hamstring injury for full-back Lee Brown only made matters worse.

“It’s been unfortunate, we haven’t had it easy,” said Jackson. “I was leaving four senior lads out of the squad two or three weeks ago but now I can’t fill my bench.

“I had a squad of 22 and that could be down to 14 or 15 by the weekend. It’s having a detrimental effect on the pitch and there is no getting away from that. It’s difficult but there’s nothing you can do about it.”

One of those who was still available for selection was January signing Al-Hamadi. Having found the net against Hartlepool and Gillingham in recent weeks, the Iraqi striker took his tally to four goals in three games on Tuesday night.

There was an element of fortune about both goals against Stevenage as his opener arrived after goalkeeper Toby Savin had missed an Armani Little cross and his second came from a rebound after Al-Hamadi had hit the crossbar from close range.

His manager was more than delighted with his impact though.

“He was a constant threat all night,” said Jackson. “He scored two and could have had more. I’m pleased that he’s got two goals but I’m sure he would have swapped them for a win.

“We brought him in because we recognised his quality. He allows us to go with a front two at times which I think causes problems at this level. We saw that tonight.

With the Dons now 13th in the league table, Jackson preferred to focus on the immediate future rather than beginning to analyse the season as a whole.

“We’ll just try and win the next game,” he said. “That’s all my focus is on.”


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