Wimbledon 0 v Portsmouth 1
Wimbledon spurned their first chance to secure a play-off place as they lost 1-0 at home to Portsmouth on Tuesday night (26 April).
The visitors secured their own play-off place courtesy of a strike by former Dons loanee Michael Smith – but the goal was marred in controversy as Sean Rigg appeared to be fouled in the build-up.
‘Their goal really shouldn’t have stood,’ boss Neal Ardley complained afterwards. ‘At the time I thought it was a clear foul and their manager said it was a foul. I’ve watched it back and Sean Rigg got taken out above the thigh.
‘Unfortunately it has cost us because the goal has come two passes after that. It is really disappointing.’
The controversy was appropriate for a typical League Two encounter played at a high tempo, with enough enthusiasm and endeavour on view to keep any neutrals in the crowd entertained and make up for the lack of finesse.
The match started with Pompey on the front foot but it was Wimbledon who came closest to opening the scoring, Callum Kennedy’s corner being met by Darius Charles who forced a save from visiting keeper Paul Jones.
And Tom Elliott also went close, his header being deflected off target following a Rigg surge down the right as the Dons continued to fashion the better scoring opportunities.
With the hosts in the ascendancy, Portsmouth were making their mark in a different manner with Gary Roberts booked for a foul on Andy Barcham and Smith booked for a lunge on Charles – both incidents that might have prompted a differently coloured card from another referee.
And so the home crowd were already riled by the time Pompey took the lead through their first clear-cut scoring chance. It was Roberts who clashed with Rigg on the flank to win the ball before crossing low from deep to find Smith, who controlled the ball before slotting home.
Smith had the ball in the back of the net again before half-time only to see this effort ruled out for a foul.
The Dons changed their shape at half time in an attempt to get the better of Portsmouth’s diamond midfield, going to three up front, and Barcham was soon in the action as he volleyed just wide.
But Pompey’s movement and tempo up front was causing unusual difficulties for defensive pair Charles and Paul Robinson, and Kelle Roos had to be alert to rescue the Dons by saving from Kai Naismith when he was left unmarked.
At the other end Elliott and Charles both headed over from corners, and there was an appeal for a penalty when Lyle Taylor appeared to be brought down by substitute goalkeeper Brian Murphy as he charged through on goal, only for play to be waved on.
Slowly the Dons’ impetus began to evaporate, despite their best efforts to push forwards, and it was at the other end that goalscoring chances began to occur as the Dons left space. First Naismith took too long and allowed Barry Fuller to pull off a magnificent goal-line block, then Roberts found himself clean through but shot wide.
Nevertheless, the single goal was enough to secure the win for Portsmouth, who still harbour a mathematical chance of automatic promotion.
Wimbledon get their next opportunity to secure the two points necessary for a play-off berth when they visit Stevenage on Saturday (30 April) before rounding off the season by hosting Newport (7 May).
Meanwhile, eighth-placed Cambridge United host Plymouth Argyle before travelling to Mansfield Town on the final day, knowing that they must win both matches if they are to overhaul the Dons and snatch the final play-off place.
Wimbledon: Roos, Kennedy, Charles, Robinson, Fuller, Barcham (Murphy 75), Bulman, Smith, Rigg (Reeves 45), Taylor, Elliott (Azeez 68). Subs not used: Shea, Akinfenwa, Fitzpatrick, Sweeney.
Booked: Elliott 31, Robinson 53, Smith 89.
Portsmouth: Jones (Murphy 45), Stevens, Barton, Burgess, Freeman, Doyle, Hollands, Naismith, Roberts, Evans, Smith. Subs not used: Davies, McGurk, May, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Close, Haunstrup.
Booked: Roberts 24, Smith 27.