Robbie Neilson is warning his players not to underestimate the threat of non-League Maidstone United as he gears his MK Dons team for Saturday’s FA Cup second round tie at Stadium MK (ko 3pm).
But the Scotsman also knows the clash provides a fantastic opportunity to progress into the third round and a potential clash against one of the big boys of English football.
Maidstone are currently mid-table in the National League and are still in touch with leaders Aldershot, but they go into the weekend clash on the back of successive 4-0 defeats at the hands of Boreham Wood and Tranmere Rovers.
Neilson is looking beyond those results though, and knows they possess the talent to hurt his team, especially in the attacking department where they boast former West Ham flyer Zavon Hines, as well as former AFC Wimbledon striker Delano Sam-Yorke and ex-Charlton and Southend forward Joe Pigott.
“The important thing is it is here, we have an opportunity of a home tie and hopefully put on a good performance,” said the MK Dons boss.
“We know it will be a tough game, they have three forwards that have good experience in the League, one of them has played at the top level so there are definitely goals in their team.
“But we feel if we put in the performance we did in the first half against Doncaster, then we would expect to go through.
“It is a difficut game against a tough team, who in the past couple of weeks have had a difficult time, similar to ourselves.
“So both teams will be looking to get through and build their own confidence.”
The Maidstone clash is the Dons’ second this season against non-League opposition, with Neilson’s side having seen off Hyde United in round one, cruising to a 4-0 victory, and it is a scenario the former Hearts boss relishes.
“This is proper FA Cup football, and it’s what we all look forward to,” he said.
“It was the same when we played against Hyde, it was a huge day for them.
“We hope we put on a good performance on Saturday, we get ourselves through, and then we are the team that is going somewhere with the shackles off and being able to enjoy it, with the fans going out for the day.”
A win will see Dons progress to the third round when all of the Premier League and Championship clubs join the FA Cup party, and the potential is there to test yourself against the very best the country has to offer.
That thought excites the MK Dons boss.
“This is a very important round for all of the teams, because first and foremost you get the opportunity to progress in the Cup, but also the opportunity to play a big, big team in the third round,” said Neilson.
“That would be a great day, and give you the opportunity to go and cause a big upset, and it gives the whole place a real lift.
“The club had Manchester United here a few years ago in the League Cup, and had a phenomenal day, and probably a phenomenal build up for weeks before for the whole city.
“So if we can do that it unites the whole club, the whole city, and is something for people to look forward to.
“But first and foremost we have to get through this game, let’s not look too far ahead.”