Our recent entries in this series were based on results for the Third Round Proper of the FA Cup. It’s back to the FA Cup again this week, but for Fourth Round action, where most action is complete (save for a couple of replays). As of right now, the lowest tier represented is Tier 3 (League One) and one of those clubs knocked of a club from the Premier League. Should Newport County or Barnet win their replays, they would become the lowest tier clubs in the Fifth Round.
Small Club of the Week: AFC Wimbledon
Nickame(s): The Dons
Founded: 30 May 2002
Location: Kingston Upon Thames, London, England
Team Colors: Royal Blue & Yellow
Capacity: 4,850 (2,265 seats)
Current League: League One (Tier 3)
Reason For Notice
The Dons were drawn against Premier League side West Ham United in the Fourth Round Proper of the FA Cup, which on paper looked like a lopsided matchup (as many of these interleague matchups tend to be). They were lucky enough to play host for the match, which may have helped propel them to victory over the Hammers. The Dons scored the first three goals and then held on for a 4-2 victory to advance to the Fifth Round of the FA Cup for the first time in their brief history (their best FA Cup finish prior ro this season was the Third Round). The Dons’ victory over the Hammers allowed them to get a measure of revenge, as West Ham had defeated them in the EFL Cup second round back in August.
Though AFC Wimbledon counts their history from only 2002, they feel that they are the true successor club to the old Wimbledon F.C., who relocated to Milton Keynes in 2002 and became the Milton Keynes Dons after an acrimonious (to say the least) relocation.
The new club spent there first decade in non-league football, beginning play in the Combined Counties League Premier Division (Tier 9) for the 2002-03 season. A third-place finish in the first season for the new club made supporters hopeful for the future, and the club came through with two straight championship seasons (CCL Premier League and Isthmian League Division One), which moved the club to the Isthmian League Premier Division and two levels from a return to the Football League.
After three successful season in the Isthmian League Premier Division (4th, 5th, and 3rd place finishes), the Dons won the promotion playoff the thirf year to earn a place in Football Conference South, which they won in their first season (2008-09). The club’s rapid climb continued, and the dons spent only two seasons in the Football Conference Premier before again being promoted via the playoff after the 2010-11 season, marking a return to the Football League – and League Two – for the 2011-12 season.
Though Football League action back in Wimbledon for the first time since Wimbledon FC was encouraging, it was initially a rough foray into League Two, with four straight finishes in the bottom half of the league table (16th, 20th, 20th, 15th) before the Dons broke through during the 2015-16 season.
They finished 7th by two games over Leyton Orient, nabbing the final playoff position for a chance at advancing to League One. They defeated Accrington Stanley in the semifinal (3-2 on aggregate), before defeating Plymouth Argyle at Wembley Stadium to earn promotion.
Their past two seasons in League One have seemed awfully similar to the first few seasons in League Two, with a 15th and 18th place finish the last two seasons. Currently, they are languishing at the bottom of the league table with only 23 points, eight points behind Rochdale in their attempt to avoid relegation back to League One, making their performance in the FA Cup even more impressive.
The the Fifth Round Proper of the FA Cup, the Dons will again play host to a club from a higher tier. Championship club Millwall will come to Kingsmeadow on 16 February with a berth in the FA Cup Quarterfinals on the line.
In advance of that match, AFC Wimbledon will be playing three matches in League One play in an attempt to get out of the relegation zone. This weekend, they travel to Sunderland, hoping to return the favor of an earlier season loss at home to Sundy and start finding the points needed to climb off the bottom of the league. That match will be followed by a home match against Burton Albion, a mid-table club that also defeated the Dons earlier in the season. Those league matches will go a long way in determining whether or not their third season in League One will be their last for a while.
Until next time…