IN OPPOSITION: AFC WIMBLEDON
AFC Wimbledon have continued their remarkable rise since their formation 14 years ago, with a promotion into League One under the stewardship of Neil Ardley.
The Dons finished seventh in League One last season, confirming that last play-off place and got the better of Accrington Stanley over two legs; a side who missed out on automatic promotion on goal difference on the final day of the regular season.
Having started out in the Combined Counties League Premier Division, the ninth tier of English football, Wimbledon have arrived in the third tier and are now playing at the same level as Milton Keynes Dons, a club that took over the league status of the original Wimbledon Football Club. The arrival of both teams in League One should certainly make for an interesting couple of fixtures between two clubs with a quite publicised rivalry.
At The Helm: Neil Ardley
A man with a strong association with the original Wimbledon, Ardley spent 11 years with the club as a player, having made his debut in 1991. A former England under 21 international midfielder, he had a three year spell with Watford after he left Wimbledon and the finished his playing career with spells at Cardiff City and Millwall.
The day after he announced his retirement in August 2007, he took over as Cardiff City’s Youth Academy manager and then in December 2012 he was given his first senior role, when he took over as manager at AFC Wimbledon. He is coming up to 3 and a half years in charge at Kingsmeadow and guided the club to promotion last weekend – a superb achievement for his managerial CV.
Certainly one to watch this coming season, and a man who has played a major part in AFC Wimbledon’s promotion, is Lyle Taylor (pictured below). The 26 year old only scored his first league goal of the season in October home victory against Barnet, but he finished the campaign with 23 goals to his name. Importantly for Neil Ardley’s side, he scored 8 goals in the final 10 games of the season, including a strike at Wembley Stadium which set his side up for a 2-0 victory against Plymouth Argyle.
Former Charlton Athletic forward Ade Azeez had a successful campaign for The Dons also, with 8 goals to his name having been a regular in the side. Tom Elliott, a former Leeds United trainee, also chipped in with 6 goals in his debut season with the London club.
Head to Head:
City have been quite unsuccessful in five previous encounters against AFC Wimbledon, it must be said. Although the one league victory The Bantams gained was quite a memorable one to say the very least.
The first meeting between the two clubs, came in September 2011 in League Two, with The Dons having just been promoted from the Conference Premier. Michael Flynn gave City the lead from the penalty spot before Jack Midson’s equaliser shortly afterwards; Christian Jolley’s goal before the hour mark gave the visitors a win to move them into the play-off places and leave City outside the relegation zone on just goal difference.
The Bantams avenged the defeat later in the season with a 3-1 victory in the FA Cup; Ross Hannah gave City an early lead before a Chris Bush own goal left the visitors with it all to do shortly afterwards. Jack Midson’s goal just after the break gave his side hope before Craig Fagan put the result beyond doubt from the penalty spot with 20 minutes to go.
AFC Wimbledon completed a league double of The Bantams for the 2011-12 season with a 3-1 home victory in March 2012. Jack Midson continued his good record against City with a goal after 33 minutes from the penalty spot, although shortly afterwards Pim Balkestein’s own goal brought the two teams level. Sunderland loanee and future Bantam, Billy Knott headed The Dons back ahead before Midson’s second penalty of the evening wrapped up the victory.
The fourth of five meetings came early on in the 2012-13 season and it was an emphatic victory for Phil Parkinson’s side. Nahki Wells scored early on and then a Curtis Haynes-Brown own goal put City two goals to the good, Andrew Davies, Rory McArdle and James Hanson added goals before the break to head into the break 5-1 up – that’s how it stayed.
On the eve of a Wembley final with Swansea City in the Capital One Cup, City were beaten by Wimbledon at Kingsmeadow. Garry Thompson put The Bantams ahead just before the hour mark with a superbly taken goal before Jack Midson equalised with 8 minutes to go. Bradford hearts were then broken when Gary Alexander scored deep into injury time to see his side take all three points.
Their own patch:
Kingsmeadow (known as the Cherry Red Records Stadium for sponsorship purposes)
The smallest ground in League One next season, Kingsmeadow is a ground that is shared with non-league side Kingstonian. With a capacity of under 5,000, it’s a stadium in which a good atmosphere can be created, especially with little empty space left with a sizeable Wimbledon following.
Away fans are allocated the ‘Your Golf Travel’ terrace on one side of the ground, which is a standing terrace which is covered in the main. The usual allocation is 600 which is around half of the ground and the maximum allocation for that stand is 700. A section of the stand adjacent to the ‘Your Golf Travel’ terrace behind one of the goals can be used for away supporters also. The ground is a relatively new one, having only been opened in 1989 and the attendance record is a completely full house, in the recent play-off semi-final home leg against Accrington Stanley.
Capacity: 4,850 (2,265 seated)
Postcode: KT1 3PB
Fancy a flutter?
AFC Wimbledon are priced at 15/2 to earn another promotion next season and are 25/1 to go one better and win the league title. They are the least fancied by Sky Bet to achieve promotion out of the four teams that have come up from League Two.