MK Dons emerge victorious in FA Cup grudge match
MILTON KEYNES, England (AP) -Built up as one of the biggest grudge matches in FA Cup history, MK Dons' 2-1 victory over AFC Wimbledon passed off Sunday without major trouble away from the pitch but with late drama on it.
It was the first game between two sides whose fierce rivalry was sparked by a controversial decision to uproot the original Wimbledon FC - the 1988 FA Cup winners - 90 kilometers (56 miles) from south London to Milton Keynes, a commuter town north of the capital.
Fans angry with the relocation formed a new club, AFC Wimbledon, in 2002 and a contest 10 years in the making was set up when it was paired with MK Dons in the second round of the FA Cup.
The match was a fight for identity as much as a place in place in the third round, with both sets of fans goading each other and laying claim to be heirs of the original club. A plane, chartered by AFC Wimbledon supporters, flew over the stadium tugging a banner that read: "We are Wimbledon'' midway through the first half.
It needed an injury-time goal to separate the teams, with Jon Otsemobor's nonchalant flick finding the top corner and sealing victory for the hosts.
"This is a good day for English football,'' MK Dons manager Karl Robinson said. "I know a lot of people have been criticizing us and were expecting something to go on in the game but ultimately I think that football has been the winner, and that's what I wanted.''
There was no antagonism between the sets of players while Robinson and AFC Wimbledon manager Neil Ardley exchanged warm embraces before and after the match.
Only on one occasion did a combustible atmosphere threaten to turn nasty when visiting fans spilled onto the pitch after their team equalized in the 59th minute through Jack Midson, cancelling out MK Dons' opener by Stephen Gleeson on the stroke of halftime.
"Football fans in general have had an awful amount of criticism over recent months but I think today it was just passion boiling over onto the pitch, and thankfully they all went back well-mannered and continued supporting their team,'' Robinson said.
Otherwise, both sets of fans behaved in a dignified manner while making their point. Many held aloft scarves with the words, "We Are Wimbledon,'' while AFC Wimbledon supporters were met with a sign outside the ground that said: "Welcome to MK - Home of the Real Dons!''
AFC Wimbledon supporters scrapped plans to boycott the match against the team they have christened "Franchise FC,'' although the club's directors took their place in the stands rather than meet their MK Dons counterparts before the match.
"This moment that our fans have dreaded has come and gone and it's turned into a celebration of how far this club has come,'' Ardley said.
"From the fans' point of view, I don't think they will ever forget (about the relocation). But I think it's a milestone for them that they've got this out of the way, the first ever one in a big cup competition.''
AFC Wimbledon currently plays in fourth-tier League Two, having started out in the ninth tier of English football 10 years ago.
MK Dons, which is third in League One, was rewarded for the victory with a trip to Sheffield Wednesday in the third round.
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