12.50

Its Wednesday night here at TADs digs, so it must be time for Saturdays match preview. And a tingle of excitement has just made its way up my back as our beloved AFC Wimbledon gain mention midway during the Rangers-Man U tie on ITV.Its just a promo though, the excitement passes… in fact I’ve been trying my very hardest not to get over excited about this game, for obvious reasons. A victory could see us play one of the sides on my television screen in the next round should the draw be kind – the other team will unfortunately have to wait for next seasons Europa League…

Yet I’m not seeing us at Old Trafford, Anfield, The Emirates – those stadiums most often mentioned by Dons fans when talk of potential third round opponents… of course Glandford Park, Brisbane Road or Edgar Street are equally likely venues unfortunately. I’m seeing Thurrock, I’m seeing Torquay in the Trophy, I’m seeing Wycombe, occasions that were too much of an occasion for AFC Wimbledon.

Having said that, this is a different Dons side that effectively lay down for Stevenage last Easter, allowing them to stroll on to promotion. We have improved a great deal, certainly more than Stevenage would have in that time… but have we improved enough? The other problem we have is I don’t really think we look like the sort of side that can cause an upset. I’ve always thought giantkillers were a band of hardworking battlers, short on talent but big on heart. While our young side might be able to top the Conference after twenty games, I have my doubts as to their ability to knock out a higher ranked side in a one-off game. How many times in the WFC days did we turn over the big boys? Mind you, back then every game seemed like a cup tie…

The present side are currently struggling with injuries, including the previously mentioned defensive problem. Yakubu will be ok for Saturday, but sneaking up almost unnoticed on the blind side is an incredibly tough looking home game with Luton. We’ll put up a fight in that one, but it almost seems as though we may have to sacrifice an important league game for a chance of FA Cup progress. Beyond that I would suggest the starting lineup will revert to full strength despite the success (in the first half at least) of the Kedwell-free lineup. It seems of the fitness worries Jackson and Blackman will be alright for the squad at least, I think Blackman might be in line for the bench and Jackson could suffer too if Brown decides Luke Moore’s impressive recent performances warrant a starting place. Expect Jolley to continue on the right if that’s the case.

As for Stevenage, well their promotion has seen them wander into an upper mid-table position, as you would expect from a Conference winner in their first season, and they should go on to mount at least a play off challenge. Some bookies can’t separate the two sides, but in the real world you have to say they are quite clear favourites for this one. Stranger things have happened, but I’m not exactly counting on looking out for ball 48 on Sunday.

Don’t disguise my pessimism for any lack of interest in the game by the way… this is a huge match, the biggest the Dons have faced in the AFC era, bigger than Wycombe, bigger than Millwall, and will remain so until we face a Conference play-off game/title decider. Expect a huge crowd there too, especially now the all-ticket status has been removed. I sometimes get the impression making games all ticket has a negative effect when the expectation is to be at or around capacity, you get the feeling more than a few of us thought ‘I can’t be bothered to arrange tickets, I’ll just watch on the telly…’. More than a few of those will now make their way to the ground on Saturday morning. Theres no excuses now – bring your floating mates and let’s make it a real cup atmosphere (well, as much of an atmosphere as can be produced at Kingsmeadow…).

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