AFC Wimbledon boss Terry Brown wants his underfire defenders to adopt the hard-working ethic of the double-winning Arsenal defence of 1998.
Following a 6-2 mauling at Burton Albion on Tuesday night, the Dons’ heaviest League Two defeat since winning promotion last year, Brown revealed he has no budget to spend on new players and must work with what he has.
Injuries to Curtis Osana and Callum McNaughton are not helping Brown as he struggles to put square pegs in round holes in his makeshift
But he believes hard work is the secret because it worked at Arsenal with Tony Adams leading Lee Dixon, Nigel Winterburn and Steve Bould.
“I have got to stiffen up the back four, but I have spent my budget and I need to get more out of the players I have got,” Brown said.
“It has to be done on the training pitch and it is all about working hard. The formula behind some of the best defences in history are those that worked at it the most and Arsenal in the late nineties is a prime example of that. That’s what we need to aim for.
“It doesn’t help that I have not been able to play my preferred back four and because it is early in the season it is actually difficult to know what that is.
“I am playing a centre half at right back and we’re getting hurt down the wings. I need to get Curtis [Osana] back from injury as soon as possible.”
The Dons conceded four goals in 20 minutes at Burton to find themselves 4-0 down at the break and then 6-0 down within 70 minutes. Late goals from Byron Harrison and Pim Balkestein salvaged some pride for the travelling fans.
Brown said: “The only positive, and it is a very small positive, is that at 6-0 we kept on playing and got a couple of goals.
“We could have got even more, which in a way is more frustrating because we were not able to benefit from any of our attacking play. Defensively we weren’t good enough.
“The fact we conceded four goals in half an hour tells it all, and Burton didn’t have to do too much to get the goals. They weren’t carving us open with football, we just weren’t dealing with balls played in behind our defence.”
Brown added: “But you cannot dress it up any other way really, it was bitterly disappointing. More than 400 fans made the long journey and no one wants to get a spanking.”
The Dons travel to Bradford on Saturday and Brown told his men to tighten things up or face the consequences.
“Bradford have spent a penny or two, so that will be a difficult game. They are a big club with big ambitions, but we’ve really just got to go up there and concentrate on being more solid at the back and being harder to beat. We cannot go away and be as open as we were at Burton.”
Luke Moore and Rashid Yussuf picked up knocks on Tuesday remain doubts for the trip to Yorkshire.