HEAD-TO-HEAD: Neilson relishing hostile AFC atmosphere

Hostile and intense atmospheres are not something Robbie Neilson is unaccustomed to, and he cannot wait to experience it at Kingsmeadow Stadium.

Monday, 13th March 2017, 11:14 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 11:07 am
Dons celebrate Dean Bowditch's goal when the sides met back in December

After four matches at Stadium MK, Dons will take on AFC in London for the first time on Tuesday night as they look to do the double over Neil Ardley's side this season.

Given the history between the two clubs, league position isn't the only thing on offer - but bragging rights too. Neilson, whose first league game in charge of Dons was the 1-0 win over AFC at Stadium MK in December, said his players know how much the fixture means to the fans and that they'll be doing everything they can to ensure they go home the happier on Tuesday night.

"All the players know it's a huge game," he said. "It's all they've spoken about all season. It's about winning the game for the league points, but also winning it for the fans.

"This has been getting built up right from the start of the season when the fixtures came out. It was the one everyone was looking at - the first time we go down there. It's one we're really looking forward to. It'll be intense - a proper, old style football match.

"I knew a little bit about it, not as much as I now know. It has been drummed into me since I got to the club, what it means. It is an interesting one. It's a good opportunity for us to go to a difficult venue and compete. Ultimately it's about getting three points. Football is about intensity, big expectations under pressure and that's what you want."

With an intense atmosphere expected, Neilson said he doesn't feel he needs to warn his players to keep their minds on what is happening on the pitch, ignoring what is said to them from the terraces in Kingston.

He said: "It's part of football, we've all coached or played at grounds where they're right on top of you. What is said is said, it's about batting it off and concentrating on the game. It's a part of football. We put pressure on ourselves ahead of every game.

"I expect it to be a physical game, but I hope it won't cross the line."

Dons go into the game three points and four league places adrift of AFC, but know a win will take them above their rivals. The game was a close one at Stadium MK earlier this season, with only Dean Bowditch's second half penalty separating the sides, and Neilson expects another close-run affair this time around.

"They have some really good players. I know Lyle Taylor from his time at Falkirk, Tom Elliot up front is a good target man, and some good players in their midfield too. I expect it to be an old-fashioned match, but there is a lot of quality we know we need to take care of."

Dons will be without Chuks Aneke, whose hamstring injury sustained at Bradford will rule him out for the rest of the season, while skipper Dean Lewington and George Baldock are serving the final games of their suspension.

However, the suspended duo will still make the journey to London with the rest of the squad, Neilson confirmed.

He added: "Dean will come down with the squad, George will too. The players want to be there and hopefully see a good game. It's an experience for us all, it's one we all want to be involved in.

"When they both got booked at Millwall, the first thing they said was how devastated they were to be missing this game."

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