AFC Wimbledon boss Neal Ardley is a firm believer that a single moment can change a season for the better.
Stacy Long’s injury time penalty winner at Torquay United on New Year’s Day was one such moment – but Ardley is demanding that his charges build on the dramatic 3-2 win in Devon.
Paul McCallum and Mat Mitchel King had the Dons in front twice during the League Two clash at Torquay, only to be pegged back twice – including a potentially heartbreaking 90th minute equaliser.
However, Long’s fourth league goal of the season was enough to take all three points – a much-needed boost after the 3-0 home defeat to Oxford United on Saturday.
Ardley said: “We needed that win. It’s been a difficult Christmas period as we had a couple of postponements – which is tough, although you have not had the game, you’ve prepared mentally for it.
“Then we prepared for the Oxford game and talked about how they would play and we got it all wrong, we were very passive.
“That then put an onus on the away game when teams around us were picking up points. We had a good meeting in the hotel on New Year’s Eve, talked about mentality and finding out a little about ourselves.
“Then on a poor mud-patch of a pitch, we dug in somehow picked up a result.”
He added: “Stacy’s penalty could be a significant moment, but that would only be the case if we build on it. If we get one or two players in and we kick on, get more consistent and pick up points.
“But we were much better against Torquay, it was a case of the players doing the simple little basics that you would expect school-boys to do.
“We showed the lads some clips from the Oxford game and you would not believe it, things you were seeing, tiny things, that add up to a bad performance.
“You have to focus on the things that are important in your role, and they got it right at Torquay.”
The Oxford game marked the end of Yado Mambo’s loan spell at Kingsmeadow, while Will Antwi picked up a fifth yellow card, meaning both Pim Balkestein and Mitchel King were brought into central defence at Torquay.
Whether they will take the same places for this weekend’s trip to Rochdale, Ardley is remaining tight-lipped, as he is on possible dalliances in the January transfer window.
“I have a number of players I want to bring in but how many and who, I am not saying because often these things have a habit of not working out.
“We’re working extremely hard trying to get things tied up. But in the next couple of weeks, if we got one or two from plan A, we’d be very happy.”
Ardley loses the services of loanee Toby Ajala after the Rochdale game, while McCallum’s loan finishes in four weeks.
Byron Harrison and Charlie Strutton remain on the treatment table, while Sam Moore is looking to come back towards the end of January.