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While last night’s FA Cup match between Woking and Brighton & Hove Albion had its fair share of drama, the real excitement of the evening came in Buckinghamshire at something called Stadium:MK, where Stevenage FC snatched a dramatic late equaliser and then won a penalty shoout-out to book a place in the Second Round of the competition and spared the rest of us the possibility of the “spectacle” of a match between AFC Wimbledon and the club that assumed a league place in 2004. The home side had taken the lead early in the second half before an equaliser deep into injury time brought the sides level. Extra-time could seperate them and it looked for a while as if a penalty shoot-out wouldn’t either, before Stevenage eventually grabbed it by a 7-6 scoreline.
Over the last week and a half or so, Wimbledon supporters have been coming to terms with a tie that they may have found emotionally difficult, even if the rest of the media was willing it to happen. There came a marked recognition that they would have to play if both sides won their replays and this led to protracted discussion of how they, if they had to, should mark the occasion. Stevenage’s penalties last night, however, made all of this an irrelevance and they will now travel to Ebbsfleet United for their replay tomorrow night without any of the conflicting feelings that they may have felt had football’s franchise won their tie last night. Last night may have felt, for some Wimbledon supporters, like the lifting of a a heavy weight from their shoulders.
What was notable about last night was the feeble turnout from the home support for the match. Peter Winkelman had made great (and, as it turned out, somewhat pre-emptive) about what magnificent occasion, as if this may become just a local rivalry like any other, all of which would suit him down to the ground. The people of Milton Keynes, however, apparently did not agree. Even with ticket prices reduced to just £12, the crowd was still just 3,977, including 852 people that had made the trip up from Hertfordshire for the match. It’s a figure that doesn’t say very much about state of the club at present. They remain, after all this time, pariahs of modern football, hated by most but rivals to no-one, outcasts playing in a still uncompleted stadium for the benefit of a dwindling support. Crowds there are down twenty-five per cent so far this season.
Meanwhile, we are spared a match that would not have brought anything positive to this year’s FA Cup. The fact remains that Wimbledon supporters either already have or will have to reconcile themselves to an eventual meeting between the two teams. Playing in them at this time in the FA Cup, however, was not the right time for this match. Milton Keynes continues to benefit from its Football League status. This match would not have been a meeting of equals. Perhaps, in a few years’ time, Wimbledon will be able to match the wages that Milton Keynes are paying their players. At that time, the boil can be lanced and the ghosts exorcised. The end of this month, however, would not have seen that happen. An away win would have been treated by their apologists as vindication of their existence. Confirmation, in some way and for some reason, that they merit their position within our game’s landscape. It almost goes without saying that these would have been straw man arguments, canards to legitimise the illegitimate.
Stevenage will not know who they have to play in the next round until tomorrow night. Terry Brown’s team still have to travel to Ebbsfleet United for their First Round replay after a sub-par performance in the first match a week and a half ago, but they could be forgiven for travelling with something of a spring in their step tomorrow evening. The prize remains a considerable one. A home match against Stevenage would be a very difficult one, but it’s not completely insurmountable and the prize of a place in the Third Round, when the clubs of the Premier League and the Championship enter into play and the full gaze of the media shines upon the lower division sides left in the competition, could turn out to be a very valuable one indeed.
Even that, however, is getting a little bit ahead of ourselves. With the match against Stevenage to be shown live on the television, the prize just for winning tomorrow night is a reasonably big one in itself and Ebbsfleet have had their share of financial problems as well over the last few months. They will be more than aware of the rewards of getting to the Second Round of the competition and proved to be every inch the match for Wimbledon in the first match a week and a half ago. There will be everything to play for at Stonebridge Road tomorrow night. Stevenage will fancy their chances no matter who they play. Perhaps that is their reward for beating the franchise.
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Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.
Great article. As a Wimbledon fan I was dreading this match and surely nothing good could have come from it. Also, let’s not forget that the same FA whose “independent” 3 Man Commission sanctioned this move shall also build the MK Muppets a renovated stadium should we win the 2018 bid. There is a strong rumour that should we fail to win 2018 then Winkleman will be off and the club will fold. That’s the preferred option, never play them!
“There is a strong rumour that should we fail to win 2018 then Winkleman will be off and the club will fold”
Not getting the 2018 World Cup would be a small price to pay for such a wonderful result
At least now MK won’t be playing against AFC this season.
The League place was stolen in 2002, not 2004.
On the 28th May 2002 to be precise.
Excellent article and summed up what most of our fans were thinking…
”…where Stevenage FC snatched a dramatic late equaliser and then won a penalty to book a place…”
Small point… Stevenage didn’t just win a penalty, they won a penalty shootout!!
“Won a penalty” should be “won a penalty shootout”, non?
Thanks, have updated. Fingers, as ever, too quick for my brain!
So the FA are going to build renovated stadia for clubs hosting the 2018 World Cup are they? – some hope. But as usual why let the truth get in the way of a good story.
So, Haggis, who do YOU think would pay for the totally unnecessary increase to the Frenziod Wankeydome?
I suppose you’re also going to tell me that the FA haven’t already been, erm, helping out their favourite pro-soccer franchise.
If my memory serves me right, Plymouth, Bristol, Nottingham, Liverpool and Milton Keynes are all hoping to be host cities for the WC. The first four plan to build new stadiums and Milton Keynes plan to put on a new upper tier and finish theirs.
Paul categorically says the FA are going to build MK a ‘renovated stadium’ if England’s bid is successful. The FA cannot possibly favour one club in this situation, they either give money to all five or no one. MK will be treated no differently and whilst all clubs will be rewarded for the use of their grounds it will be up to them to raise whatever funds it is necessary to build their stadium. If they can’t afford it they wouldn’t have spent an estimated £100,000 in submitting their bid.
Dermot, it is with blatant nonsense like this from Paul together with your spreading a rumour that MK Dons will fold if they don’t host some WC games, that AFC supporters are beginning to alienate themselves from the general football public. OK a mistake was probably made, it wont happen again, let us get on with our own lives now. If you are unable to do that then please support your arguement with true facts.
@Haggis, as a fan of another team, believe me, the AFC supporters are not alienating themselves from the general football public.
“MK will be treated no differently”
Too late! They already have been.
They are the only town in England to have been given a League place and free stadium all paid for by a supermarket property development.
“The FA cannot possibly favour one club”
Do you SERIOUSLY believe that?
“a rumour that MK Dons will fold if they don’t host some WC games, that AFC supporters are beginning to alienate themselves from the general football public”
How so? Most football followers I know will want to have the party to end all parties when the Bletchley Stealers go pop.