Written by Frankie Rudland (@rudlandfrankie)
Bournemouth boss Jonathan Woodgate has declared that his side must be “up for the fight” against Championship strugglers Wycombe this weekend.
The Chairboys are six points from safety with two games to go, needing nothing short of a small miracle to maintain their status in the Championship for next season, and Woodgate is expecting a “dogfight” against Gareth Ainsworth’s side, he said: “They’ll be fighting tooth and nail, you can guarantee that.
“The players seem to have an unbelievable bond with their manager, you can see that with how well they’ve done over the years, especially getting in to the Championship.
“They will be fighting, there’s no doubt about that, so we have to be up for the fight.”
Despite their current standing, Wycombe have produced some shock results in the past few weeks, fighting back to beat Bristol City 2-1 before holding Bournemouth’s fellow promotion hopefuls Swansea to a 2-2 draw as they remain undeterred in their quest for survival. Speaking on their recent upturn in form, Woodgate remained adamant that Gareth Ainsworth and his side still deserve full respect heading in to the fixture: “I fully respect the job that the manager has done there, he’s done unbelievably over the last nine years.
“We know what it is going to be like, we know it is going to be a really difficult game – they are a direct team so we’re going to have to match them in that respect.
“They’re fighting for their manager, absolutely fighting for him, you can see the bond that they have together and the players really enjoy playing for him.”
The stakes are considerably lower for The Cherries, with Woodgate and co having already secured their place in the playoffs with two games to spare, an achievement that Woodgate hailed as “exceptional”.
“I’m absolutely delighted – full credit to the players – it has been tough at times but when push came to shove we got there with two games to go.
“I think if you’d have asked any Bournemouth fan whether we’d be in the playoffs with two games to go they wouldn’t have believed it, but we have produced the goods up until now.
“That’s one objective fulfilled, now we move on to the big one,” he added.
In injury news, Shane Long is back in contention after a spell on the sidelines halted his promising start to life at The Vitality, but Woodgate is conscious that he will have to be “wary” with reintroducing the Republic of Ireland forward back into the fray. Lloyd Kelly and Lewis Cook remain the only other significant absentees for the trip to Buckinghamshire, with Woodgate expecting Kelly to be back for The Cherries’ clash with Stoke at the earliest.
Bournemouth’s early attainment of a playoff spot also offers Woodgate the luxury of rotating his squad in their remaining two games, but the former centre-back insisted that he is keen to find the right balance in the lead up to a vital run in.
“We’ll maybe make a few changes here and there, I’ll assess the players and then name the team accordingly.
“It’s a fine balance of keeping players fresh and getting players the minutes that they need so that they’re firing on all cylinders because going into the players you can never be sure who you’ll need,” Woodgate added.
AFC Bournemouth take on Wycombe at 3:00pm on Saturday 1 May.