Azeez hoping to win Dons competition for starting place up front

by Sam Elliott

ADEBAYO AZEEZ admits he is far from happy with being AFC Wimbledon’s substitute saviour and wants a shot at a start as the Dons enter their season’s crunch time.

Before Saturday’s game with third-placed Oxford United, Neal Ardley’s team pieced together a run of seven wins from eight League Two matches to fire them up to fifth.

But after this weekend’s challenging game, Wimbledon go to runaway leaders Northampton on Tuesday night before a home game with fourth-place Accrington next Saturday.

Then it’s a visit to in-form fellow play-off dwellers Bristol Rovers to complete a mad start to March.

Second-top scorer with seven, Azeez’s patience with being a bench warmer is wearing thin. Despite coming on to net the winning goal at Barnet last weekend, he was again handed only a quarter of an hour on Tuesday as the Dons beat Carlisle United 1-0.

That has mainly been his life since arriving at Kingsmeadow in June 2014 with fans knowing they can always rely on the speedy 22-year-old to come on and turn a game just like he’s done so often.

But whisper the words ‘super sub’ quietly. The former Charlton prospect says he’ll never accept that tag.

“We are managing to find our form at the right time,” he said. “It’s crazy and unpredictable, League Two this year – we’re showing any team that think they can put a run together that it’s possible no matter where they are in the table.

“I’m still learning, but I’m far from happy with the situation. I want to start every game but if the gaffer feels at the moment that for the team I have to come on and make an impact then that’s what I’ll do. But I don’t want to be an impact sub, not at all.

“I’m happy to come on and do something like I did at Barnet and fairly often this season but no way, I want to be starting games. When you think you have a chance to play then you hear the team read out before kick-off and you’re not in the starting line up again it is difficult. No player would be happy with that at all and I can’t say I’m happy with the role but I have to keep working hard. I respect the manager and the club.”

Azeez is in good company. Wimbledon’s iconic forward Adebayo Akinfenwa is in the same boat as the pair struggle to dislodge the Tom Elliott-Lyle Taylor partnership.

“We push each other every day, but it’s a team game and we both know that,” he added.

“The next few weeks are massive in our season and if we can get a good return from these matches there’s every chance of holding our position in the play-offs. It’s such an important few fixtures.

“We honestly feel like we are going to win every game at the moment.”

*This article was originally published in The FLP on 28 February 2016.

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