Angry Ardley Blasts Ref As Dons Lose Boxing Day Encounter

Wimbledon 0 v Southend 1

Wimbledon manager Neal Ardley branded the decision that saw his side reduced to 10 men ‘the most ridiculous decision ever’ as they went down to a battling 0-1 defeat against Southend United on Boxing Day.

The game-turning incident came just before the half-time break when George Francomb slid in to intercept a loose ball and was stamped on by late-arriving Southend player Robert Kiernan – only for referee Graham Scott to show a red card to the Wimbledon man as he received treatment for his injury.

‘I couldn’t believe it,’ Ardley told the club’s official website afterwards, ‘because I thought the referee was going to give us a free-kick for their lad catching George quite high.

‘It’s a bad decision. We’ve seen it since, and it’s even more laughable. When you watch it again, it’s the most ridiculous decision ever.’

The decision stunned the Dons and forced them into a half-time change as they attempted to shield their makeshift defence, in which Barry Fuller was again forced to play at centre-back, and play on the counterattack.

Francomb had been a key player in this game even before his controversial dismissal, enjoying a return to his role wide on the right. First he narrowly failed to set up Charlie Sheringham and Michael Smith, then he capitalised when Sammy Moore’s effort was only partially cleared, drawing a superb save from Southend keeper Daniel Bentley after 17 minutes.

But it wasn’t all one-way traffic as Ross Worner had to be at his best to pull off an acrobatic save to deny John White’s fierce long-range drive.

Jack Midson’s half-time introduction for the Dons, replacing the largely ineffectual Sheringham, helped spark more life into Wimbledon’s attacking play as in a deeper lying role he linked up well with Smith.

The pair went closest to carving out a lead when Midson’s perfectly weighted through ball set Smith clear, only for the on-loan Charlton man’s effort to be deflected wide for one of a number of Wimbledon corners.

At the other end Worner again had to be alert to deny Michael Timlin, before tall striker Barry Corr also headed over for the visitors.

It was somewhat against the run of play that the visitors took the lead, the Dons’ defence being resolute until quarter of an hour from the end when a hanging ball pumped into the box by White saw Cauley Woodrow beat Fuller in the air to head home and put the visitors 1-0 ahead.

Ardley responded by going to three at the back, introducing Chris Arthur was a substitute for a late cameo, but despite pushing the Dons were unable to get the point that they probably deserved and, but for the referee’s controversial decision, may well have gained.

Francomb is eligible to play on Sunday (29 December) when the Dons entertain Plymouth Argyle as he awaits to hear the outcome of the club’s appeal against his dismissal. The Dons then travel to Dagenham & Redbridge on New Year’s Day and Wycombe on the following Saturday.

Wimbledon: Worner, Fenlon, Kennedy (Sainte-Luce 79), Sweeney, Frampton, Fuller, Francomb, S. Moore, Smith, Sheringham (Midson 46), L. Moore (Arthur 85). Subs not used: Antwi, Brown, Jacquart, Fayers.

Booked: S. Moore 24, Sheringham 28.

Sent off: Francomb 41.

Southend: Bentley, White, Coker, Atkinson, Kiernan, Phillips, Hurst, Leonard (Woodrow 59), Corr (Eastwood 70), Timlin, Straker (Laird 82). Subs not used: Smith, Clifford, Payne, Thompson.

Goalscorer: Woodrow 76.

Booked: Atkinson 37, Straker 82, Eastwood 87.

Attendance: 4,561

By Rob Crane

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December 27, 2013