28 March 2023

Johnnie Jackson hails impact of returning Ali Al-Hamadi

28 March 2023

AFC Wimbledon manager Johnnie Jackson was delighted with the impact striker Ali Al-Hamadi made so soon after returning from international duty after his goal sealed a 2-0 win over Walsall.

The 21-year-old was named on the bench just two days after playing for Iraq in their friendly against Russia in St Petersburg and came on to score his seventh goal in eight games for the Dons.

It added to Will Nightingale’s opener as Wimbledon recorded a much-needed first win in 12 games, although Al-Hamadi later hobbled off after taking a knock to his hip.

Jackson said: “The fact that it’s just an impact is promising. It’s a bit sore but hopefully because it’s impact, it’s not too bad.

“To be honest, he’s done great to get back to us because originally we expected he wouldn’t be back tonight and that he wouldn’t get back in the country until tomorrow.

“But he managed to get himself back after the games [with Iraq] because he landed yesterday after obviously playing 70 minutes on Sunday, so we had to be careful with what we did with him tonight.

“The temptation was to throw him in or to play him longer, but Saikou [Janneh] did such a great job as well for 60-70 minutes that we were able to hold him back.

“Obviously, he has come on and had an impact as well. He’s been brilliant, not only with his goals but with his work rate and his attitude.”

Wimbledon broke the deadlock just before the hour mark when Armani Little’s corner was met by Nightingale, whose header floated into the top corner.

Al-Hamadi then made victory safe in the 74th minute when he was on hand to bundle home, following another Little corner, after Kasey McAteer’s flick was cleared off the line.

Disgruntled Walsall boss Michael Flynn said: “We were flat, poor, second-best all over the pitch.

“We conceded from two set-plays, which we don’t ever do, when we work on a set-play when the other player has forgot his job and run in the way of the one who’s hitting it. It was a bad night all-round.

“Their keeper has made two good saves off headers, but that was about it, really.

“We switched off when we’ve worked on things and concede from two set-plays and when their smallest player on the pitch is winning headers, you’re going to walk away with nothing.

“The frustrating thing is we’ve lost the game to two set-plays, that’s the frustrating thing because that’s very unlike us and when that happens you know we’re in for a negative evening.

“They were first to everything, second to everything, third to everything and too many players were absolutely nowhere near it tonight.”

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