AFC Wimbledon over the last few years have had very memorable games in the FA Cup, from ultimate comebacks to being knocked out by non-league sides, their fair share of televised games and even trips to Wembley. If the game at the Shay is anything like their last few seasons in the competition, it will be one nail biting and almighty game.
In 2014-15, the Dons finished mid-table in League Two, but their FA Cup run took them to the dreamland of the Third Round. A 3-1 First Round replay win over fellow League Two side York City, with all three goals coming in the last 20 minutes, led them to a Second-Round game at Wycombe Wanderers’ Adams Park, which they won 1-0 thanks to a Sean Rigg goal.
The Third-Round draw got them what every lower league side dream of, a home tie against a top six side in Liverpool. Liverpool were at the centre of attention around the time of the game live on BBC One, as Reds legend Steven Gerrard announced that he would leave Anfield at the end of the season. And it was Gerrard who stole the show at Kingsmeadow, scoring either side of Wimbledon hero Adebayo Akinfenwa’s equaliser, including a beautiful free kick which started Liverpool’s journey to the semi-finals.
The following season, despite being promoted to League One through the Play-Offs, proved not to be as good FA Cup-wise. But the Dons did feature in a giant-killing, even if they were the giants themselves. The First Round saw them at home to Forest Green Rovers, looking for promotion from the National League, and this game gave Forest Green a chance to see how they would compete against a Football League side. Forest Green unbelievably took the lead early on before Callum Kennedy equalised. However, the FA Cup giant killing stopped a replay in Gloucestershire, as Rovers’ Elliot Frear scored a 93rd minute winner to stop Wimbledon progressing.
If the 2016-17 FA Cup run for AFC Wimbledon had to be summed up in one word, it would be “manic.” A First Round replay 5-0 win over Bury with five different goalscorers was just the beginning. The Second Round drew them away to National League North Side, Curzon Ashton. That game proved to be one of the greatest games the competition had ever seen.
Curzon saw a potential giant killing, and their striker Adam Morgan certainly showed his talent in front of the cameras, scoring a hat-trick, including a goal within the first minute, to put Curzon 3-0 up after an hour. The scored stayed that way until the 80th minute, when Tom Elliott, Dominic Poleon and Tyrone Barnett came together and within 162 seconds, 3-0 became 3-3. Football is cruel at times and the Curzon fans saw their team go from upset of the round to a potential replay. Tom Elliott’s 94th minute header stopped that replay and heartbreakingly put Curzon out of the cup.
After that eventful match which attracted nationwide attention, the Dons were drawn away to yet another non-league side in fierce non-league rivals Sutton United, merely five miles away from Kingsmeadow. This time, a replay did occur as neither time could score at Gander Green Lane. Everything was going to plan when Tom Eliott scored the opener early on at Kingsmeadow. However, the game turned on its head when Paul Robinson was sent off after 15 minutes. 10-man Wimbledon remained strong until an equaliser after 75 minutes. The killer blow was struck in the 90th minute Maxime Biamou scored what looked to be the winner for Sutton, just as in the Forest Green game the season beforehand. However, more pain was to be inflicted as Dan Flitchett caught the Dons on the counter attack in the 96th minute and lobbed James Shea to make the full time score 3-1.
Sutton famously went on to beat Leeds United in the following round before a Fifth Round 2-0 defeat at home to Arsenal.
2017-18 saw the Dons successfully retain their League One status and make it yet again to the Third Round of the cup. Two successive home wins, firstly a 1-0 win in the First Round against the previous years’ quarter-finalists, Lincoln City, followed by a 3-1 victory over Charlton Athletic, led to the Third-Round draw giving Wimbledon another draw against a top six side, and a day certainly to remember.
Neil Ardley’s men got the chance to play at Wembley and face Tottenham Hotspur who were in their first season in the national stadium. However, there was to be no shock in this London derby as a double from Harry Kane and a Jan Vertonghen goal sent Wimbledon home with a 3-0 loss.
So far in this competition, the Dons have had just one FA Cup game, a dramatic 1-0 win away at fellow London side, Haringey Borough FC, with the goal coming in the 90th minute from Mitchell Pinnock. Next up, they travel to the Shay to face FC Halifax Town.
If there is anything the fans of AFC Wimbledon are used to in the FA Cup in recent years, it’s drama in whatever form it comes, so prepare for what will be an almighty and hopefully classic FA Cup tie.
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