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Football | FA Cup

Neil Ardley © Action Images

Wimbledon 'proud' despite bitter loss

AFC Wimbledon coach Neil Ardley expressed pride in his team after seeing them lose to an injury-time goal in their FA Cup grudge match at MK Dons.

AFC were formed by protesting fans 10 years ago after the Football Association sanctioned plans to move Wimbledon, the 1988 FA Cup winners, 56 miles north from south London to the Buckinghamshire town of Milton Keynes.

Sunday's second-round tie was the first ever meeting between the clubs and the animosity was apparent throughout.

Visiting fans brandished posters, sang derogatory songs and even hired an aircraft to fly over Stadium MK trailing a banner that read: 'We are Wimbledon'.

AFC's directors, meanwhile, shunned their hosts' hospitality to sit among the 3,000 travelling fans, while many supporters simply boycotted the game altogether.

League One (third tier) MK Dons eventually prevailed 2-1 through a fine stoppage-time back-heel by Jon Otsemobor, but Ardley said his players had no reason to feel downhearted.

"I'm proud of the club for where they've come in the last 10 years," he said.

"This is a celebration of us and the way we have handled the week. This moment, which a lot of our fans dreaded, has come and gone.

"I'm relieved we have done the club proud. We can say we had a real good go at it. From the fans' point of view, I don't think they will ever forget, but it is a milestone for them that they have got this game out of the way.

"This is a celebration more than anything. It has been draining and they will feel the same. This was the first time and the more you talk about it, globally, it is one of the most unique games there is.

"It's a situation that never has happened or will happen again. Both clubs need to move on and next time there is a meeting between us, there is not so much of a gulf between the two teams."

Amid all the acrimony, a major police presence was in force to ensure emotions remained in check.

That was going to plan before Jack Midson's header to cancel out Stephen Gleeson's first-half goal for MK Dons prompted a small pitch invasion that could prompt the Football Association to investigate.

There was jubilation for the hosts when Otsemobor flicked in the winner, but MK Dons manager Karl Robinson was in no mood for joyous celebrations.

"It's been a tough week and I'm tired," said Robinson, whose side were rewarded with a third-round tie at Sheffield Wednesday.

"I thought the game typified two sets of teams who had great hunger and passion for the club they played for. The two teams can walk away very proud and that's what I wanted.

"I wanted it to go smoothly. I wanted everyone to conduct themselves in a way that was right for the English game, and I thought we did that.

"Not one fan attacked or physically went towards any player. It was just passion. Thankfully the fans went back and continued supporting the team. This was a good day for English football.

"I said it was going to be unique and different. I've not hid my passion for this game and it was something that I wanted.

"I hope it can develop into a healthy rivalry. We will always have our doubters and some headlines will be negative. But that is out of my hands."


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