Pre-season continues on Sunday, 18th July as an AFC Wimbledon XI visit Hayes Lane on what is expected to be the hottest day of the year so far. Kick off: 3 pm

Despite the excitement of the league fixtures released on Wednesday there are still plenty of pre-season games to go until the big kick off on 14th August against Lewes. This will be game four of pre-season but in a sign that there still needs to be caution in regards to staging games two matches, at Sevenoaks Town and at Erith & Belvedere on Thursday night have been cancelled due to positive Covid tests in the home teams camps.    

Pre-season so far has seen Danny Kedwell’s team win a hard fought game at Chatham Town 2-1 on 8th August and followed up with a stylish 4-1 home win vs Hashtag United last Saturday. Then on Tuesday, 13th August, a Wands team with a few younger players in the squad travelled to Hollands & Blair who won the game 2-1. Sadik Balarabe scored Cray’s goal in the 69th minute but there were still some positives to take from what was a difficult game. The main downside was a first half injury to Jack Hanson and hopefully will soon be on the mend and not too badly hurt. 

As well as Danny Kedwell, his former striking partner, club coach Jon Main were both part of the AFC Wimbledon club which emerged from its early days in Non-league football. Danny made 130 appearances between 2008-11 after joining from Grays Athletic and Jon, 88 after the former Wands striker signed from Tonbridge Angels from 2007-10. Danny and Jon are both in the top 3 for club top scorers during the non-league era with Danny scoring 63 and Jon on 59 including 34 in the 2008-09  Conference South Championship winning season. Danny famously scored the winning penalty in the Conference Playoff Final against Luton Town at the Etihad to take the SW London club into the Football League.

The side Wimbledon will bring with them will be a Development side but there will be plenty of young talent under Alan Reeves’ tutelage who will be pressing for places in the first team next season.  AFC Wimbledon FC will be starting their 5th season in the EFL League One and Mark Robinson’s team begin their league campaign on 7th August with a trip to Doncaster Rovers and then three nights later travel to Charlton Athletic in the Carabao Cup.

The AFC Wimbledon has had a remarkable history for a club not yet 20 years old. The club were founded as recently as 2002 by disgruntled supporters of the original Wimbledon club who had relocated to Milton Keynes. The club started out in the Combines Counties League and in their second season in non-league football gained promotion as Champions to the Isthmian Division One. Here, just two years after their founding the club would meet London’s Oldest Football Club, Cray Wanderers who ended a 78 game unbeaten record with a 2-0 win at Hayes Lane on 4/12/04. 

That was one of the few blips in their season though as they comfortably won the title at the first attempt and beat Cray 3-0 at home in front of a crowd of 3,358 on 23/4/05. The clubs have also met in Cup competition with Wimbledon winning 3-2 at home in the League Cup in February 2005 and 6-2 at Hayes Lane in the 1st Qualifying Round of the FA Cup in September 2007. There were two meeting in the London Senior Cup with Cray winning 4-3 at Kingsmeadow in the Quarter Final on 13/3/13 with Leigh Bremner scoring twice and Paul Booth and Billy Burgess scoring but Wimbledon won the following season 2-1 in a match that was played at Beckenham.

After promotion from the Isthmian Division One, the club had three seasons in the Premier where they reached the playoffs each time. In 2005-06 they were beaten at Fisher in the Semi-Final and then by Bromley in 2006-07. In 2007-08 though they wouldn’t be denied and after finishing 3rd beat Hornchurch and Staines in the playoffs to reach the Conference South.

The Dons ran away with the title in 2008-09 and after an eighth place finish in 2009-10 in the Conference in 2010-11 finished runners-up behind Champions Crawley Town and after thrashing Fleetwood Town in the Playoff Semi-Final with Danny scoring in the second leg after a tight, tense final in Manchester won promotion on penalties against Luton Town.

Danny Kedwell strikes the penalty in the shoot-out to earn promotion

In the Football League the club struggled a little at first in League 2 and famously met MK Dons in the FA Cup and also reached the 3rd Round for the first time losing to Liverpool in 2014-15. In 2015-16 after finishing 7th reached the playoffs and beat Accrington Stanley in the Semis and Plymouth Argyle 2-0 at Wembley to earn promotion to League One where they have remained since. They famously reached the 5th Round of the FA Cup in 2018-19 beating West Ham along the way but in the last couple of seasons have finished 20th. The big bonus though has been the return of the club to the Borough of Merton and close to the site of the old Plough Lane ground and the club’s transformation from grass-roots team playing out of town and back to their homeland was complete.

Tickets for the game are on sale on the club website: £10/£5 and there is pay at the gate and a match programme will be available on the day.

It will be hot so why not make the most of a day out watching the Wands and the Dons and leave those post Euros blues behind.