ITEN FA Cup Preview: AFC Wimbledon (A)
The FA Cup is back, and Rovers are plotting another long run. Darren Moore spoke of his desire to emulate last season’s brilliant efforts in his pre-match press interview, and a tie against depleted League One side AFC Wimbledon represents a good chance to kick that run off right.
Here is everything you need to know about tomorrow’s clash at Kingsmeadow, and when you’ve read this piece why not check out our detailed look back at that run to the 5th Round last year?
Moore to make do and mend?
Absences have been on the rise for the past few weeks, and little improvement has been made since last Saturday. Captain Ben Whiteman hasn’t trained all week although is hoping to have overcome illness enough to feature in London for this 1st Round clash, whilst forward Niall Ennis will not be risked having struggled with a muscle strain injury for the past fortnight. The continuing absences of Cameron John, Matty Blair and Kazaiah Sterling mean the bench will have a youthful look about it again too.
The big question is the matter of our half-season loanees and their availability. Parent clubs can stipulate that their players be left out of cup ties, and Rovers have three only currently contracted until January. Whilst Ben Sheaf appears to be available based on Moore’s assessment of his recovery from the illness that forced him off against Burton, the status of both Seny Dieng and Donervon Daniels remains unknown.
It is easy enough to rest Dieng in favour of Ian Lawlor, and the manager may wish to play the Irishman regardless, but Daniels has always felt like a temporary addition and the presence of Joe Wright at this week’s pre-match presser suggests this may be the time to reintroduce the injury-hit centre half to the starting XI in place of Daniels, who struggled in the draw with Burton giving away a penalty and conceding possession in dangerous areas several times.
Forss cup-tied as Hodges forced into changes
New Wimbledon manager Glyn Hodges has turned the Dons’ form right around since replacing Wally Downes, winning three of the last five games to take the struggling side out of the relegation zone. His team is severely depleted due to injury however for this one and so the Wimbledon that Rovers come up against is likely to be an inexperienced, unfamiliar line-up. Crucially, top scorer Marcus Forss has been ruled out by parent club Brentford, with his seven goals vital to the side.
Strike partner Joe Pigott will likely lead the line instead, a player who many Rovers fans touted as a replacement for John Marquis in the summer but who has only notched one goal this term so far, with fellow forward Michael Folivi injured. Midfield trio Anthony Wordsworth, Max Sanders and Callum Reilly are all facing fitness tests to make the squad, whilst defenders Will Nightingale and Rod McDonald are definitely sidelined.
The main threats will likely be experienced winger Scott Wagstaff, attacking midfielder Mitchell Pinnock – who scored a fine effort in Rovers’ 2-1 win over the Dons at the Keepmoat last season – and three-goal striker Kwesi Appiah, who is the most likely replacement for Forss.
There have only been four meetings between Rovers and the reborn AFC Wimbledon, all in the last two seasons in League One. Rovers have only won one of those games, the aforementioned 2-1 win last season in which goals from Ali Crawford and a late Tommy Rowe effort saw Grant McCann’s side come from behind to claim the points. The only other clash at home was a goalless draw in a rearranged fixture the year before in what proved to be the last game Darren Ferguson took charge of the team for.
Both prior fixtures at Kingsmeadow have ended in 2-0 home wins, which spells bad news for Rovers tomorrow. An abject display allowed Andy Barcham and Kwesi Appiah to net the decisive double in August 2017 whilst John Marquis was sent off in dubious circumstances in the last meeting back in March for a tangle with keeper Aaron Ramsdale, who is now first choice at Premier League Bournemouth.
Rovers met the original incarnation of Wimbledon eight times between 1977 and 1982, winning three times. Our one and only victory at Wimbledon came at Plough Lane in September 1981, as an Alan Warboys penalty gave Billy Bremner’s a 1-0 win in the old Third Division. Wimbledon were relegated that season but commenced their meteoric rise from to the top flight the following season, earning three promotions in four seasons to reach the top flight before going on to famously win the FA Cup in 1988 against Liverpool.