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FA Cup challenge turns full circle for Tom

Interview with experienced midfielder ahead of match against Lincoln City

3 November 2017

By Rob Cornell

Tom Soares attempted to put Wimbledon out of the FA Cup on first round weekend almost exactly a year ago, but now he's aiming to create special memories with the Dons.

The midfielder ended up disappointed after a 5-0 exit in the replay, but Bury had been on the cusp of knocking out Wimbledon after allowing a 2-0 lead to slip in the first meeting against Neal Ardley's men.

By the time Soares had joined the Dons, at the end of the January transfer window, his new club were on the receiving end of an FA Cup upset.

"When I had just got here, I didn't quite know what happened against Sutton United, but a lot of the boys spoke with me, and by the sounds of things we just missed out," said Tom. "It would have been a fantastic opportunity to have gone on and played Arsenal."

In the end, it was Lincoln City - tomorrow's opposition – who got to face the North London giants, before going out with honour in the quarter-finals. Tom is expecting the Imps to be fired up again when they visit The Cherry Red Records Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

"It'll definitely be a tough tie, but we're going out there to win like every game and I'm pretty sure that's what we're going to do.

"Our fans have been brilliant, like they always are. Lincoln is a big club and they'll be bringing quite a few fans down, but I'm sure the fans will be right behind us and keep us going."

The 31 year-old has now established himself in Wimbledon's midfield, after injury cut short his first season. Tom still feels Dons fans are yet to see him at his best this campaign, having first recovered from an ankle operation and then a thigh injury, which in total ruled him out for six months.

"I'm feeling good, but I still don't feel 100 per-cent fit – as in terms of fitness, but injury wise I feel really good. I've been looking after myself both on and off the pitch."

Having moved from Crystal Palace to Stoke City for £1.25m in 2008, the former England under-21 international was part of the Stoke squad that reached the final in 2011. He came on for Jermaine Pennant in a 2-0 win at Cardiff City, after extra-time, in a third round replay on the road to Wembley.

Tom is now aiming to help the Dons make up for last season's disappointment and set-up another eye-catching third round encounter - if they can deal with this weekend's visitors first.

"The FA Cup is always a good chance to draw one of the big boys, especially when you're in the lower league – it's really good and exciting. It's a key time, especially for a club like us to draw a big club and go on a good run.

"I remember how Wimbledon did at home to Liverpool (in 2015) and they did really well. As a footballer in the lower leagues, you want to be playing against the best players in the country, at the big clubs, home or away. Going to big stadiums like Anfield would be fantastic."

The full interview with Tom Soares, along with the pre-match thoughts and FA Cup memories of AFC Wimbledon coach Simon Bassey, are available to subscribers of our premium iFollow Dons channel.

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