AFC Wimbledon boss Mark Bowen gives his verdict after relegation to League Two confirmed on final day

Mark Bowen believes that the mentality of the AFC Wimbledon players has not been strong enough throughout the season after their relegation to League Two was confirmed following a 4-3 loss to Accrington Stanley.

Despite Mark Bowen’s side needing to overturn a seven-goal swing, pick up all three points and hope relegation rivals Fleetwood and Gillingham lose if they were to survive the drop, the visitors swept the Dons aside in the first 50 minutes at Plough Lane.

Jay Rich-Baghuelou gave Stanley the lead in the 18th minute when he rifled a shot from distance past Nik Tzanev.

John Coleman’s side then doubled their lead through Colby Bishop, and Michael Nottingham added a third before half time when he was allowed to rise highest inside the box and plant a corner past Tzanev.

The Dons pulled two back through Ayoub Assal and Jack Rudoni after the break, but Accrington added a fourth goal in the 63rd minute through John O’Sullivan.

Rudoni drilled home Wimbledon’s third of the afternoon in the 66th minute, but they were unable to find the equaliser and had their relegation to League Two confirmed.

AFC Wimbledon v Accrington Stanley SkyBet League One, Cherry Red Records Stadium, 30 April 2022

“It’s a difficult time for the club. It has taken a little bit of the edge off it because, going into today’s game and looking at the table, there was going to have to be a miracle for us to stay up,” said Bowen on the mood in the dressing room after relegation was confirmed.

“Last week [in the 1-1 draw with Fleetwood] and the way it developed was just as raw.

“As a coach, you can go into the dressing room, and you can talk if you’re a talker, or say little words, or you can have the big monologue speech, but it is ultimately the players themselves and what they’re feeling inside their heads.

“One thing I did say to them: ‘This game of ours, whether they don’t know it, but they should know it by now, more than 50 per cent is about mentality.’

“They are all at clubs like Wimbledon because they have got decent ability, but perhaps throughout the season, the mentality of the group hasn’t been strong enough.”

AFC Wimbledon v Accrington Stanley SkyBet League One, Cherry Red Records Stadium, 30 April 2022

The players were booed off at half time for their first-half performance.

“It didn’t affect them,” explained Bowen.

“In any dressing room, when you’re 3-0, it’s going to be quiet. First and foremost, I went in there and said that basically, they [the players] have got to grow emotionally. They can’t be pointing the finger at anybody else – you have got to take it on the chin immediately.

“Young players especially have got to as quickly as possible, when you’re growing in the game, get used to playing in pressure environments.

“It seems to me in the last 20-odd games that they haven’t won, there is no doubt about it, you can’t hide it, they have struggled with that emotional pressure of going into games.

“It is difficult – half time was a difficult half time for everybody. But in times like that, you say to them: ‘You’re praying for your own pride.’ And they did.”

AFC Wimbledon v Accrington Stanley SkyBet League One, Cherry Red Records Stadium, 30 April 2022

PICTURE: KEITH GILLARD

 

 


 

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