It’s a sign of AFC Wimbledon’s mood at the moment that Anthony Wordsworth has an emphatic answer when asked about a hypothetical final day drop scenario.
Would the midfielder settle now for the Dons needing a result at Bradford City on May 4 to stay in League One?
“I’d definitely say no,” responds Wordsworth. “I think we can be safe before that – especially with the teams we have got to play before that.
“I fancy us to be safe before the last day.”
You wonder if the response would have been the same in early February, when AFC Wimbledon were 10 points adrift of 20th place.
But they have won five of their last seven, their only reverse to Charlton Athletic.
Not only did the Dons’ 1-0 victory at Southend United on Saturday see them climb off the foot of the table and up to 22nd, they are just six points behind Plymouth Argyle in 12th.
“To be able to drag so many teams into it is ideal for us,” said Wordsworth. “Quite a few of those we have still got to play.
“If you’re sat in 12th position at this stage of the season and there is a chance of getting relegated then you’d be disappointed. But it’s definitely good for us that there are 12 other clubs that could still go down.”
The recent upturn in results suggests that Wimbledon have failed to play to their potential.
Wordsworth joined in the summer on a free from Southend – a change of management at Roots Hall seeing a new deal fail to materialise. Then Dons boss Neal Ardley had a bigger budget to play with and also snapped up the likes of James Hanson, Mitch Pinnock and Scott Wagstaff.
Ardley’s six-year spell in charge was ended in November, an FA Cup win over Haringey Borough not proving enough solace for a seven-match winless streak in the league.
“I remember after the first two or three games of pre-season I told my friends to back us, as a minimum, to get in the play-offs,” said Wordsworth. “So the way the season panned out after the first 10-15 matches was very disappointing.
“Especially so from my point of view, not being involved at all. That was frustrating for me.
“Since Wally [Downes] came in [to replace Ardley] we have taken it game by game – we have a board that we look at before games and we cross them off, one by one.
“It will be Gillingham on the board on Saturday. We look at these as cup finals, it’s how we’re treating every game.”
So did Wordsworth go knocking on Ardley’s door – considering Wimbledon’s fortunes did not get any rosier with him on the sidelines?
“It’s about opinions – Neal Ardley had his opinions, which were fine,” he said.
“I had a slight injury at the start of the season and maybe that was behind Neal’s thinking, but it was difficult watching the team getting beaten every week and not being able to help.
“With the injury I could have sat out six or seven weeks, but I still felt like I could contribute something. I didn’t really get the chance. It’s a shame. I like Neal, I think he’s a nice bloke. He brought me in, and other players, and we let him down, if I’m honest, at the start of the season.”
Ex-Dons striker Lyle Taylor caused a bit of a stir earlier in the campaign when he told the South London Press that the current crop of Wimbledon players had got Ardley the sack.
Jake Jervis, on loan from Plymouth, had words with the Charlton frontman when the two sides met in December.
Wordsworth said: “If the team is getting beaten every week you have got to look at the players on the pitch – but I think the majority of the ones who played were boys that had been here last year.
“In the first 12-15 games, for anyone to say the new ones were letting the side down – I think they’d be mistaken. So it’s frustrating reading anything like that.”
Wordsworth’s old club Southend are deep in trouble after last weekend.
“It is nice to prove an ex-manager wrong that let you go,” he said. “But I’m disappointed for the club.
“I had a really good time there as a whole and I’d love to see them stay up. But if it was to deny us staying up – if it is between the two of us – then they are going to have to go down.”
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