Mark Bowen says his AFC Wimbledon side have to start “putting points on the board” after they lost 2-1 to Sheffield Wednesday in his first game in charge.
The 58-year-old, who was appointed as Mark Robinson’s replacement on Wednesday, rung the changes ahead of the trip to Hillsborough, reinstating George Marsh into the midfield and bringing Zach Robinson and Dan Csoka into the starting line up.
The hosts took the lead in the 11th minute when Jack Hunt arrived at the back post to guide Barry Bannan’s cross over Nik Tzanev.
Wimbledon levelled the game when Will Nightingale played through Zach Robinson, and the 19-year-old forward played in Ayoub Assal to fire his ninth of the season past Bailey Peacock-Farrell.
Darren Moore’s side stole all three points in the 92nd minute when Barry Bannan was allowed time and space to pick out Callum Patterson inside the penalty area, and Lee Gregory squeezed a header past Tzanev and Ben Heneghan on the line.
“It is difficult to take, because, as everybody knows, this wonderful game of ours has a habit of kicking you when you’re down – I’m sure that the lads have had other times like that over the last couple of months,” Bowen told the club’s official media.
“We will emphasise the positives, which you do, and the lads in there will know that in the very short space of time that we have had to work with them and [work on our] gameplan, up until the 92nd minute, it worked perfectly well.
“Emotionally, it kills you. You go from a few minutes earlier, when Ayoub has a one-on-one with their keeper, and in those few seconds, you’re thinking ‘this is three points that we’re going to take home.’
“I haven’t seen the winning goal for them back yet. Yes, it’s the fatigue in terms of physically, but it’s also the mental fatigue – people doing their jobs, maybe switching off for one second, and it costs us.
“It happens – you can’t feel sorry for yourself.”
Wimbledon, now on a six-game losing streak and without a win in all competitions in 22 games, are now four points from safety after relegation candidates Morecambe and Fleetwood won.
They take on South London rivals Charlton on Tuesday night at Plough Lane.
“We have got six games left,” said Bowen. “We have got to make sure that we take the positives from this game, and on Tuesday against Charlton [make sure that] after the game [we’re not] talking about a decent performance again, we have to be talking about points on the board.
“Come what may, whichever way it happens, we have to start putting points on the board.
“We will dust ourselves down – we will go again.
“We will make sure that we are 100 per cent focused for Tuesday’s game against Charlton.”
PICTURES: LUCY DIXON