League One Match Preview: AFC Wimbledon (A)
Doncaster Rovers head south in search of victory again this midweek, hoping to spoil the party for opponents AFC Wimbledon as they return home to Plough Lane after almost three decades away.
Rovers Look to Ruin the Mood
It is fast becoming almost impossible to predict what Darren Moore will do as far as his team selection goes, with Rovers fielding their most surprising side of the season against Lincoln on Saturday. With Reece James in central midfield and Joe Wright at full back, eyebrows were raised but the unconventional proved effective as the team pulled off a creditable 1-0 win against one of the better footballing sides in the division.
Whether or not he opts for the same level of tinkering here remains to be seen, and Wimbledon’s use of wing backs may prompt Moore into restoring Brad Halliday to the side, but let’s not be surprised if for, some as yet unseen reason, he fields Andy Butler on the wing, Reece James up front for good measure and James Coppinger in goal. If he does mind, don’t be surprised if Copps keeps a clean sheet!
The Dons game will come too soon for missing midfield pair Madger Gomes and Taylor Richards, meaning Rovers must find a clear way to support Fejiri Okenabirhie in attack without leaving him isolated, whilst the burden of combating the home side’s packed midfield will be stacked upon the shoulders of Ben Whiteman and Matt Smith.
Expectant Dons Return Home
All the talk surrounding this fixture will be about the setting, as AFC Wimbledon make the momentous move back to Plough Lane to play in their brand new stadium. The story of the original club moving to Milton Keynes is well documented, but their exile from their home borough of Merton stretches back further than that, with Wimbledon forced to depart the original Plough Lane in 1991 due to the Taylor Report.
Following a long-term groundshare with Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park under their original guise, then with Kingstonian during the phoenix club’s rise out of the ashes, the Wombles finally move home to the new Plough Lane, built on the sight of the old Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium just up the road from their original ground. Although the lack of fans will mute the celebrations, it is still a hugely significant occasion for the club and so victory will be expected by the faithful watching from home.
Experienced defender Luke O’Neill will miss the game having picked up an injury last week, but academy graduate Paul Kalambayi deputised ably in the 1-1 draw at Milton Keynes on Saturday. Joe Pigott netted his fourth league goal of what looks to be another productive season up front, supported by young Jack Rudoni with summer recruit Ollie Palmer unable to break into the side as yet despite an excellent spell at Crawley in League Two.
Pigott is the dangerman for Wimbledon so the key focus on the field has to be his work up front for the Dons, likely to be occupying Tom Anderson for much of the game. Anderson put in another stellar 90 minutes against Lincoln and has become the picture of consistency over the course of the last 15 months, and has everything in his power to shut down Pigott and stop the striker from being the hero Dons fans will want to christen their new stadium.
Rovers played four games at the original Plough Lane when they shared a division with the original Wimbledon between 1977 and 1982, winning their last trip to the old ground 1-0 in September 1981. The two teams were promoted together from the Fourth Division in 1981 (in the final season of two points for a win) but didn’t meet again until AFC Wimbledon were promoted to League One in 2017. In four meetings at Kingsmeadow since then Rovers have never won, so will be hoping the new stadium marks a fresh start in this fixture.