One of the biggest rivalries in lower league football is set to continue tomorrow as AFC Wimbledon travel to Stadium MK in search of 3 points against MK Dons. For those wondering why there is so much animosity between the two clubs, the answer dates back to 2001 when the old Wimbledon F.C. announced its intentions to relocate the club to Milton Keynes. Although there was a huge furore from supporters and the football authorities themselves, the move was eventually accepted, and before long the club’s name had changed to Milton Keynes Dons F.C.. Wimbledon fans on the whole did not take too kindly to this sudden change to a historic football club, and soon a new team had been created in the form of AFC Wimbledon. They joined the ninth division of the English football pyramid in 2002, climbing six divisions in the space of 13 years to be where they are today.
Both clubs see themselves as the true ‘Dons’, and there has been plenty of controversy when the two have previously met. In fact, the EFL released a statement in July detailing their belief that Wimbledon had not referred to their adversaries in the proper manner in a prior league fixture at Kingsmeadow. Therefore, the EFL have told Wimbledon they must refer to MK Dons “in a manner that is consistent with all other teams that visit the Cherry Red Records Stadium.” Although both teams currently sitting in the bottom half of the league table, I imagine the bragging rights that come with a victory will mean more than the three points on Saturday.
MK Dons What To Watch
Despite a respectable to start to life in EFL League One for the newly promoted side, recent league games have been somewhat of a disappointment for MK Dons. Fans will be hoping goalkeeper Lee Nicholls doesn’t need to be called into action too often on Saturday. With no clean sheets since the opening day of the season, Nicholls may need to produce a stellar performance to put that record straight.
One interesting player which Milton Keynes boast is club captain Dean Lewington. The 35-year-old is most natural at left-back but can be utilised in midfield when needed. However, it is Lewington’s career path which really catches the eye. Coming through the ranks at the old Wimbledon, he was present during the move to Milton Keynes, and has not looked back. With over 600 appearances for MK Dons, he is unsurprisingly the longest serving player at the club. Milton Keynes will need the experience of Lewington if they are going to come out of this match with three points.
Up front MK Dons have a few options to choose from. Most notably they have the services of deadly striker Kieran Agard available to them. With plenty of experience at League One level, Agard will be expected to make a sizable contribution towards keeping the team in the division following their promotion last season. After netting his first goal of the season against Accrington Stanley F.C. last week, Agard will be hoping he can add more goals to his name against Wimbledon.
AFC Wimbledon What To Watch
Quite like Milton Keynes, Wimbledon have only kept one league clean sheet so far this season. One player who has been present in the away side’s backline in every game so far is full-back Luke O’Neill. Manager Wally Downes has kept faith with O’Neill so far this season but with Wycombe being the only team who have failed to score against Wimbledon so far this campaign, he could well decide he needs to consider other defensive options.
Wimbledon will be hoping that winger Scott Wagstaff can step up to the big occasion on Saturday. The Maidstone born player was signed last season with the hope that he could chip in with a few goals to help alleviate the burden on the strikers at the club. However, apart from a stellar performance in the FA Cup against West Ham United F.C. where he netted twice, Wagstaff only managed another two goals for the club in 35 league appearances last season. His only goal so far this season did come against Saturday’s opposition in the League Cup, and Wimbledon will be hoping that he can repeat the trick this afternoon.
A player that Wimbledon will be hoping can really step up to the plate this season is striker Kwesi Appiah. Beginning his career in non-league, Appiah eventually made his way to Crystal Palace F.C. before being released after being sent out on loan no fewer than eight times in his 5-year spell with the Eagles. Once Palace made the decision that he was no longer needed, Appiah moved to Wimbledon in 2017 and has yet to set the world alight. With another season in the bottom half of the table likely for the Dons, Appiah hitting some form would be greatly appreciated by the fans.
MK Dons vs Wimbledon Prediction
Sometimes, matches with a big billing can turn out to be a damp squib. As much as I want to say that this will be an exception, I can’t really see it being a high scoring affair. For me, this one will be a draw.
Prediction: MK Dons - 1 Wimbledon - 1