Joe McDonnell: This is a big chance to be number one at AFC Wimbledon

BY RICHARD CAWLEY

Joe McDonnell is determined to take his shot at being AFC Wimbledon number one – admitting it is time for him to kick on in his career.

The 24-year-old had been back-up in recent seasons but has started the last three League One games after Dons manager Neal Ardley dropped Tom King, who is on loan from Millwall.

Only seven of McDonnell’s 18 matches for Wimbledon have come in the league, but he has acquitted himself well since starting at Accrington towards the end of last month.

“I’m 24 now and it is time to really get that first-team football,” said the former Basingstoke youngster. “Before you can see it as experience just being on the bench. I’ve put the hard work in and now it is about grasping this with both hands.

“You want to be playing league football at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon. There is nothing like competing for three points.

“This is my fifth season here and I’ve been patient. I’ve had a couple of little runs in the team but have had good goalkeepers in front of me – still this season I have done well to get in ahead of Kingy. Last year I never got a sniff because Longy [George Long] was that good.”

McDonnell made two late saves from David Ball in Tuesday’s 1-0 loss to Bradford City but both were comfortable takes. He could do nothing about Jack Payne’s penalty which decided the contest just before half-time.

McDonnell was chatting to King as the two sets of players left the pitch at the break.

“We were just talking about the penalty,” he explained. “We had done our research before but it didn’t work in the end. Every penalty before he [Payne] has gone to the keeper’s left but this time he decides to go to my right – he’s outfoxed me basically.

“It [the penalty being awarded] is one that can go either way. We probably should have had a similar one in the second half [a foul on Andy Barcham]. We just didn’t get the rub of the green.

“We were the better team and had more chances. We’ve made their keeper work a bit, so it is disappointing. It is fine detail with us at the moment that is costing us. Our team has got a lot of potential and we just need to click it all together.”

It was Wimbledon goalkeeping coach Ashley Bayes who played a huge role in McDonnell becoming a shotstopper.

“I joined Basingstoke when I was 16 and I was either a striker or a goalkeeper. They said at the time they had a lot of strikers and not many goalkeepers, so I went in there a bit.

“I was still moving between the two when Bayso came in a year later. He took me to Aldershot when he was a coach there but was playing for Basingstoke – he made me a goalkeeper.

“I’ve been with him for eight years now, it’s a long time.

“I’ve never had a problem with any goalkeeper while I have been here, everyone has been a pleasure to work with – some you get close to and I’m still friends with. It’s a good union and that is probably a tribute to Bayso – he has got that kind of character that he gets everyone together.
It is a good environment to be in.”
IMAGE BY PAUL EDWARDS

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