A new feature where we take a closer look at who Rovers will face in League One next season.
Nickname: The Dons
Formed in May 2002 by supporters who strongly opposed The FA’s decision to allow Wimbledon FC to relocate to Milton Keynes, where they felt it would no longer represent the club’s legacy and traditions.
Having entered the Premier Division of the Combined Counties League – the ninth tier of English football – upon its formation, AFC Wimbledon has been extremely successful in its short history, winning promotion six times in 13 seasons, most recently via the League Two play-offs in 2015-16.
AFC Wimbledon hold the record of the longest unbeaten run of league matches in English football, having gone 78 games without defeat between February 2003 and December 2004, and they also hold the distinction of being the first club formed in the 21st century to make it into the Football League.
The Manager: Neal Ardley
A former England Under-21 international midfielder, Neal Ardley spent much of his playing career at Wimbledon, where he made over 300 appearances, the majority of which came in the Premier League, after making his debut for the club as an 18-year-old in April 1991.
A move to First Division rivals Watford followed in August 2002, where Ardley would play over 125 games, including appearances in an FA Cup semi-final in 2003 and League Cup semi-final in 2005.
Spells with Cardiff City and Millwall followed, before Ardley announced his retirement from football in August 2007 – on the same day he was appointed manager of the Cardiff City Academy.
He took over as manager of AFC Wimbledon in October 2012 and secured the club’s League Two status with successive 20th-place finishes in his first two seasons in charge. 2014-15 would prove to be a more memorable, as Ardley guided The Dons to a 15th-place finish, a first ever victory over MK Dons, as well as the third round of the FA Cup, where they were knocked out by Liverpool.
In May 2016, Ardley achieved his first managerial trophy after beating Plymouth Argyle 2-0 in the League Two play-off-final at Wembley, earning AFC Wimbledon a place in League One for the first time in their history.
The Ground: Kingsmeadow (Cherry Red Records Stadium)
With a capacity of just 4,850, which includes 2,265 seats, Kingsmeadow will be the smallest stadium Rovers visit in League One next season.
The ground, which was opened in 1989, is situated in Norbiton, Kingston upon Thames, in south west London. Until April 2017, it was also the home of Kingstonian FC.
In November 2015, Dons supporters backed a proposal to sell the ground to Chelsea, whose Ladies team will use the stadium for the 2017-18 Women’s Super League season.
AFC Wimbledon hope to move into a new ground by 2019 near Plough Lane, which was Wimbledon FC’s ground until 1991. The new stadium will be built on the site of Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium.
The 2016-17 season saw AFC Wimbledon compete in League One for the first time in their history. They remained unbeaten in the south London derby fixtures, recording two draws against Millwall and a home draw and a 2-1 away win against Charlton Athletic.
They suffered a 1-0 defeat away to rivals MK Dons in December, but recorded a memorable 2-0 victory at home in March. They ended their debut campaign in the third tier in 15th place after winning just five of their last 22 league games since the turn of the year.
In the cup competitions, Neal Ardley’s side were knocked out of the EFL Cup at the first hurdle by Peterborough United, they lost 3-1 to Sutton United in an FA Cup third round replay, having overcome Bury and Curzon Ashton in the previous rounds, and they lost 2-1 to Brighton in the knockout stage of the Checkatrade Trophy.
This will be the first meeting between the two teams in the club’s history.