This is only the second meeting between the sides in the EFL.  The teams played 4 games in the National League between 2009 and 2011 before contesting an FA Cup tie in 2015.  The meeting in August at Plough Lane finished as a 1-1 draw – a 75th minute leveller from Troy Deeney cancelling out a first half strike by James Ball.

The league contests have favoured Wimbledon, with 2 wins and 3 draws.  But Rovers were 2-1 away winners in the FA Cup 8 years ago.

How are they doing?

Wimbledon were going very steadily and moved into the play-off places at 7th in the table.  However, a surprise home loss to Sutton on Boxing Day meant they dropped to 8th place in the table (just behind arch-rivals MK Dons).  They are 15 points behind leaders Stockport, but are 19 points better off than FGR.

What will worry the New Lawn faithful is Wimbledon’s away record this season.  Only Barrow and Mansfield have better away records than Wimbledon.  By contrast, their results at Plough Lane have been very average.

Probably their stand-out player so far has been Iraqi international Ali Al Hamadi.  Al Hamadi has been at Wimbledon for a couple of seasons.  He scored 10 goals last season and has already passed that mark with 11 goals this campaign.  He was the Don’s Player of the Season last season.

Seven of Wimbledon’s goals have been scored by their 25 year-old attacker/attacking midfielder, James Tilley (number 7).  However,all of Tilley’s goals were scored in August and September and he’s been a bit quieter since then.  Omar Bugiel and Armani Little are 3rd and 4th top scorers with 4 and 3 respectively.

Wimbledon’s manager is former Charlton player and manager Johnnie Jackson.  Jackson is in his 2nd season with the Dons.

Tilley's trio - News - AFC Wimbledon

James Tilley has already got 4 goals for the Dons.

Ali rewarded for stunning start - News - AFC Wimbledon

Iraqi, Ali Al-Hamadi is Wimbledon’s man in form.

Rovers connections

Omar Bugiel - Wikipedia

Omar Bugiel (number 18) is a forward who was part of FGR’s National League play-off winning side in 2017.  He moved to Bromley (on loan) then Sutton Utd before joining the Dons this summer. 

Midfielder Armani Little (number14)  joined FGR in 2022 before being loaned to Wimbledon at the start of 2023, a move which became permanent this summer.

Josh: I feel loved here - News - AFC Wimbledon

Josh Davison (number 9) came on loan to FGR from Charlton in the 2020/21 season.  He joined Swindon on loan the following season before moving to Wimbledon permanently in 2022.  Josh scored 9 times in 37 starts last season and says he feels loved at the Dons.

The Club

The original Wimbledon were at their peak in the late 1980’s, winning the FA Cup in 1988, and with players like Vinnie Jones and Denis Wise, dubbed ‘The Crazy Gang’.  In 2002 the club were relocated to Milton Keynes in a move that was very controversial with supporters.  Wimbledon fans are likely to call the side ‘MK’ without adding ‘Dons’.

The EFL stepped in when the club refused to use MK Dons full name – instead referring to them simply as Milton Keynes.  To get around this EFL directive, if you are at Plough Lane and you hear the half time scores being read, you’ll notice that one result will just be announced as, for example, ‘Doncaster are winning 1-0’ – you’ll know their opponents must be MK Dons!

In 2002 a group of supporters decided the only way to effectively fight the decision to relocate to Milton Keynes was to start again from scratch.  And so, in 2002, AFC Wimbledon was formed.  Trials for their first team were held on Wimbledon Common, open to any unattached player.  They are one of the few supporter-owned clubs in the EFL – the Dons Trust, the supporters group who own AFC Wimbledon, is pledged to keep at least a 75% stake in the club.

The club’s rise through the leagues was pretty meteoric.  In 14 seasons they rose from the 9th tier to the 3rd tier.  A relegation in 2021 saw them back in the 4th tier after 6 seasons in League 1.

It wasn’t until 2020 that the club were able to move to their own stadium after years playing at Kingsmeadow, Kingston-on-Thames.  Their new stadium , Plough Lane, is just 250 yards from their original Plough Lane ground, and is built on the site of the old Wimbledon greyhound stadium.

The club places great emphasis on its role as a social focus for the entire local community and, in 2012,  became the first football club to be presented with the Prime Minister’s Big Society Award for outstanding contributions to the local community.

‘Haydon’, the Wimbledon mascot.  Haydon Road is the nearest station to Plough Lane.

The club are nicknamed ‘the Dons’ or ‘the Wombles’.  There is an obvious rivalry with MK Dons, though many Wimbledon supporters don’t count this as a rivalry because they feel the Milton Keynes outfit shouldn’t exist!  The fiercest other rivals are Crawley Town.  The rivalry with close neighbours Sutton Utd is, apparently, a much friendlier rivalry.

Plough Lane uncovered after a 30-year wait - News - AFC Wimbledon

Plough Lane – Wimbledon’s new home.