AFC Wimbledon will be hoping for a more comfortable ride this time around, after only securing their League One safety in the penultimate game of 2017/18, and being unable to improve on the previous season’s final league position for the first time in five years.
Only the bottom three sides in League One last season netted fewer goals than the Dons, so it’s fair to say their defensive record – not exactly formidable but among the better ones outside the top six – was ultimately what kept them up.
Top scorer Lyle Taylor’s 14 goals included three winners and were undoubtedly important, but there was a certain over-reliance on the Montserrat international striker – although fellow frontman Joe Pigott showed promise by netting five after signing from National League Maidstone in January.
Getting the balance of the side right would appear to be the key, which will probably take some more movement in the transfer market. With work on a new ground at their spiritual home of Plough Lane now underway, though, it’s time for the team lay their own foundations for a bright future – starting with consolidating their place in this division.
Last season: 18th in League One
In charge: Neal Ardley
The third longest-serving manager in the top four divisions – behind his former Wimbledon teammate Gareth Ainsworth and Morecambe’s Jim Bentley – Ardley has been at the helm since October 2012. He guided the Dons to promotion via the League Two play-offs in 2016, with victory in the final wrapped up by a late, late penalty from Adebayo Akinfenwa – who proceeded to instruct potential suitors to “Hit me up on the WhatsApp.”
Star player: Deji Oshilaja
The 24-year-old was a mainstay of the Dons backline in 2017/18, starting 41 league games and missing only four in his first full campaign with them, having previously been on loan in 2015. A consistent season of committed and impressive performances saw the versatile centre-half scoop three player of the year awards, so he's bound to be full of confidence and raring to go again.
Key ins: There have been just the two new arrivals so far. Left winger Mitch Pinnock has joined from National League Dover, for whom he netted eight times and contributed ten assists last season, while target man James Hanson – who scored 77 goals in seven-and-a-half seasons in Leagues One and Two with Bradford, including four against his new club – has signed after a short spell at Sheffield United, which should further help to take some of the load off Taylor.
Key outs: Judging by social media reaction, the loss of sturdy centre-back Darius Charles to Wycombe did not go down particularly well with Dons fans. Right-back and skipper Barry Fuller and central midfielder Dean Parrett were also among nine players to depart, with the latter going on to sign for fellow League One side Gillingham, while Lyle Taylor has today (Wednesday) joined Charlton.
Wycombe wins: 1
Wimbledon wins: 5
First league meeting: 22/09/2012 (League Two): Wycombe 0-1 AFC Wimbledon
Last meeting: 02/04/2016 (League Two): Wycombe 1-2 AFC Wimbledon (Wycombe scorer: Michael Harriman)
Last Wycombe win: 18/10/2014 (League Two): Wycombe 2-0 AFC Wimbledon (scorers: Josh Scowen, Sam Wood)