Dons big favourites to reach the third round

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PLAYERS are going to be rested, but nothing will be taken for granted as Dons set their sights on the third round of the FA Cup this Saturday.

Their FA Cup second round tie against League 2 minnows Barnet at Underhill is a great opportunity for Dons to land a big money tie in the third round against a Premier League side.

And manager Karl Robinson is taking no chances, admitting the Bees will go into the game thinking exactly the same thing as Dons are – that they are just a game away from a huge payday.

He said: “They’ll think the same as us – it’s a good way into the third round. They’re a good team and they’ll make it difficult for us.

“You never know how that slope down at Underhill is going to play, so we have to conduct ourselves in the right manner.

“It’s the glitz and glamour of the FA Cup, you never know what you’re going to get.”

Robinson’s squad selection against non-league Nantwich Town proved to hit the spot as Dons stuck six past the Dabbers, and the boss is expected to name a similar line-up against Barnet on Saturday, giving some of his regular performers a rest ahead of the busy Christmas schedule.

Sixteen-year-old ace George Williams became the club’s youngest ever scorer when he scored Dons’ sixth goal against Nantwich – and he’ll get another chance to shine against Barnet.

“The bench will be littered with young players again,” said Robinson. “They will get their opportunities again if I deem it’s right for the game and their development.

“I want to make some changes – Darren Potter has been playing with so many injections in the last two weeks, it’s phenomenal.

“Mark Beevers can’t play so Gary MacKenzie will come back in and now has to fight to keep his shirt. Tom Flanagan’s done that well not to let Gary back in the side.

“I have to decide whether Adam Smith comes back in and if Shaun Williams could come in – what a great headache to have.”

The game itself is yet another occasion for Dons’ chequered past to rear its ugly head as the boys from stadium:mk take on a ‘familiar face’ from the past in Lawrie Sanchez.

The Bees manager famously scored Wimbledon’s winner to beat Liverpool in the 1988 FA Cup final at Wembley, and has been vocal in his views on the club’s move to Milton Keynes in the past.

And Robinson, who was in the stands for what remains one of the competition’s biggest upsets, is keen to continue making a name for himself against one of the competition’s most famous managers, with Sanchez having previously guided Wycombe to the semi-finals.

“It’s a game against a former Wimbledon legend,” he said. “It is funny the FA Cup this season because it’s thrown up draws against a manager who released me when my back was bad, and now one who scored the winning goal against the team I follow.

“He scored the biggest goal in Wimbledon’s history and we’re going up against him. He’s a man who thinks he should be managing international football and in the Premier League.

“I was at the game in ‘88, and when Liverpool won the year after against Everton. It was a weird game, there wasn’t much in it. No-one had many chances and then John Aldridge missed that penalty.

“But we’re going there full of optimism, full of confidence and we’ll be looking to win.”

Another familiar face to Dons fans will be Barnet striker Izale McLeod.

The 27-year-old still tops Dons’ all time scorers list with 54 goals in his three years at the club, which also brought an England U21 cap, before he completed a big money move to Charlton Athletic in the summer of 2007 for a then record Dons transfer fee of £1.5 million.

He scored in the 1-1 pre-season draw between the clubs in July, but this will be McLeod’s first competitive game against Dons since leaving the club, and he’s in red hot form.

The striker has hit the net 15 times already this season, including two penalties last time out in Barnet’s 2-1 victory over Macclesfield on Saturday – their fourth win on the spin.

But Dons aren’t guilty of being goal-shy at the moment either, hitting the back of the net 15 times in their last three games, with in-form front man Dean Bowditch hitting four in his last two starts for Dons.

And with six wins on the spin, Dons are big favourites to make Sunday’s third round draw for the fourth time in the last eight years.