Wimbledon v Coventry City, 7.45pm
8 November ~ For two former winners, tonight's televised FA Cup tie should provide a welcome distraction from the more mundane business of battling in lower-league football. Although top-flight meetings between the two were regular events little more than a decade ago, the reborn Wimbledon currently find themselves 15th in League Two while opponents Coventry City have overcome a ten-point deduction to sit a respectable 11th in the division above. Though both clubs will be targeting survival in their respective leagues as the first priority this season, future success will depend upon their relevant ground issues being satisfactorily resolved.
Wimbledon, who have been groundsharing with neighbouring Kingstonian for the past decade, recently put forward plans to Merton council to return to their spiritual home of Plough Lane in a new ground where the Wimbledon greyhound stadium currently stands.
The council are analysing the club’s proposal and that of a rival bidder, who is seeking to build a new greyhound stadium on the site. Wimbledon will now have to wait until spring 2014 to find out whether or not the council have approved their plans but even if they are given the green light, it is not envisaged that they could begin life at the new stadium before the 2017-18 season.
Meanwhile Coventry City's much-publicised dispute with Arena Coventry Ltd, over rents paid for playing at the Ricoh Arena, reached crisis point last summer. As a result, the club's owners announced that the Sky Blues would play their home games 34 miles from Coventry at Northampton's Sixfields ground, initially for a three-year period, after which time they hope to move into a new purpose-built stadium back in Coventry. Many of the club's supporters have chosen to boycott games at Sixfields while those that haven’t now make more than a 70-mile round trip to watch the team play.
Against this backdrop, and despite the aforementioned points penalty, Coventry have made an excellent start to the season under ex-player Steven Pressley and will provide testing opposition for a Wimbledon side who, despite their own early season promise, had not won in six games before last weekend's late victory away at high-flying Rochdale. Tonight, Neal Ardley's Dons will be hoping to build on that result in front of the visiting television cameras, as both sides look to proceed into the next round and beyond. Shane Simpson