By Lee Dover
The Premier League and Championship clubs have yet to enter this season’s FA Cup but the tie-of-the round this weekend is AFC Wimbledon’s trip to the MK Dons on Sunday afternoon (12.30).
The history behind this tie is amazing, especially when you consider the sides are the bastard sons of the former Wimbledon FC ‘Crazy Gang’ who were notorious in English football in the 1980’s culminating a 1-0 win over Liverpool in the 1988 FA Cup.
But that was the high point before everything started to go wrong. Soon after their relegation from the top flight in 2000, the club’s owners wanted to make a fresh start in Milton Keynes.
There was such opposition that a section of the team’s supporter’s club broke away and formed AFC Wimbledon in the Premier Division of the Combined Counties League in 2002.
A decade later and AFC Wimbledon will meet with MK Dons for the very first time. The club’s manager Neal Ardley has weighed in on the significance of the match, stating to BBC Sport:
Eight weeks into my first managerial job, it’s certainly been a test of the media skills. There is a lot of emotion behind it and a lot of history. It’s unique. I don’t think there is any other game where this has been the case.
One of the FA Cup’s biggest appeals is that it gives non-league sides the opportunity to shine on a huge stage.
With the MK Dons currently sitting pretty in third position in League One, they are odds on to beat AFC Wimbledon but the underdogs will fancy their chances.
Because in the FA Cup – you just never know.
There are at least three non-League clubs guaranteed to roll into the hat for the next round – when the bigger teams join in.
Macclesfield Town were rewarded for their spectacular first-round win over League One promotion contenders Swindon Town with an away tie to minnows Barrow.
Paddy Power is offering a tasty price of 7/5 for Macclesfield to continue their phenomenal run with victory away to Barrow, while the hosts have value at 13/8 for the win.
Meanwhile, Harrogate Town gaffer Simon Weaver cannot wait to get his team’s second-round tie with Hastings United underway. He said:
To get a home draw is fantastic because it will mean so much to the people of Harrogate to be able to come to a second round game. Both teams will look at it and believe they have a realistic opportunity to get through.
Harrogate are 4/7 to pick up a victory over Hastings at the first time of asking on Saturday, while Dorchester make the trip to Luton Town, with the away team facing a tough task to progress to the next stage of the competition.
Luton were a League Two side only three years ago and have been in the Conference play-offs for the past three seasons straight and should advance in the hope of a potential money-spinner in the next round.