AFC Wimbledon boss Neal Ardley battles MK Dons spotlight

MK Dons v AFC Wimbledon FA Cup second round

  • Venue: Stadium MK
  • Date: Sunday, 2 December
  • Kick-off: 12.30 GMT

Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live and BBC Three Counties Radio

AFC Wimbledon manager Neal Ardley admits it has been difficult to focus on his team's preparations for the FA Cup tie at MK Dons.

Sunday's game is the first ever meeting between the two sides.

He told BBC Sport: "Eight weeks into my first managerial job, it's certainly been a test of the media skills.

MK tie just another game - Gregory

"There is a lot of emotion behind it and a lot of history. It's unique. I don't think there is any other game where this has been the case."

AFC Wimbledon were formed in 2002 following the decision by an FA-appointed independent commission to grant permission to the old Wimbledon FC to move to Milton Keynes.

While the old Wimbledon moved north 56 miles, were renamed Milton Keynes Dons in 2004 and eventually moved to Stadium MK in 2007, AFC Wimbledon started life in the Combined Counties League.

AFC won five promotions in the space of eight years to reach the Football League in 2011 but this is the first time the two sides have been drawn to face each other.

Ardley added: "We're trying to say we're focusing on the pitch and how we prepare.

"The media circus that goes around this game will carry on and we'll try and deal with it in the best way we can."

Ardley played 291 games for the old Wimbledon before leaving the club for Watford in 2002, shortly after the green light had been given for the Dons to move to Buckinghamshire.

Many of Wimbledon's matches at Selhurst Park had been boycotted by fans after chairman Charles Koppel had announced the intention to move to Milton Keynes in 2001.

"When I was a player here I was right behind everything the fans were doing back then," Ardley continued.

"One season I think it cost us a chance of getting in the play-offs because there was so much surrounding the club other than supporting the team.

"Out of bad situations come good situations. I look at this club and it is unbelievable what has been achieved in the last 10 years.

"There should be a book written about this club and a film made about it.

"For the fans, that's what this game should be about - how far this club has come through hard work and determination."

AFC's players have also had to cope with the extra attention ahead of the trip to Milton Keynes.

"In the back of our mind we know about the history but as players we have to cross that white line and give everything we can," forward Jack Midson told BBC Sport.

"There's no point brushing it under the carpet. It's a massive occasion.

"It's a game people say shouldn't have happened but it has. Since the draw happened it has been in the back of our mind.

"We have to be confident that we can win and it might spur us and the fans on.

"I can't imagine how they must have felt when the club split. I respect their decision if they do go or don't go. We have to do them proud."