Wimbledon 1 v Sutton 3
Wimbledon were literally sent tumbling out of the FA Cup on Tuesday (17 January) as they lost their FA Cup third-round replay 3-1 against non-league Sutton United.
Sutton had evidently done their homework on the Dons and realised that Wimbledon find it hard to handle a more physical approach to the game.
In the original tie at Gander Green Lane they repeatedly bundled Dons striker Tom Elliott out of the game while nullifying the remainder of the Wimbledon attack.
And in this replay – aided and abetted by a laissez-faire approach to applying the laws of the game from referee Chris Sarginson – the non-leaguers stepped up their physical approach.
The one bright spot for the Dons was that striker Lyle Taylor was the only player forced from the pitch through an injury caused by the visitors’ rumbustious approach.
And yet incredibly it was the Dons who had a man sent off, Paul Robinson being shown an early red card after being judged guilty of a professional foul, as Sarginson’s performance left many Wimbledon fans venting their fury in disbelief.
Afterwards, Dons manager Neal Ardley hid his fury behind a professional veneer as he spoke to the press.
‘It is for the referee and the assessor, in a big game worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, to dictate whether they think the referee had a big bearing on the game,’ he said.
‘My job is to show a little bit of class, wish Sutton all the best, and say “well done” because they have really given us a game in both matches.’
The match started in lively fashion but with no sign of what was to come, with Taylor firing just wide for the Dons and James Shea doing well to deny Craig Eastmond, while Matt Tubbs also fired wide for the visitors.
The Dons took the lead in the 10th minute in simple fashion as Dean Parrett’s free-kick looped onto the head of Elliott who nodded home beyond the rooted Ross Worner.
Just five minutes later Sarginson started assuming centre stage. Robinson got the ball stuck under his feet as he turned while meeting a long ball, but still successfully prodded it back towards Shea. But the advancing Tubbs tumbled theatrically to the ground as he went past Robinson to close down the clearance, resulting in Sarginson deeming it a goalscoring opportunity – despite covering defenders – and reducing Wimbledon to ten men.
The Dons continued to press, despite being forced to withdraw Dom Poleon in order to shore up the defence, with Darius Charles hooking over and Taylor and Elliott also getting in efforts.
But the tone of the evening was also changing as Sutton started putting in vigorous challenges on the Wimbledon men, usually without punishment from Sarginson, with Sean Kelly, Parrett, Taylor and Elliott the recipients of the most notable challenges.
Sutton’s Roarie Deacon, in particular, was fortunate to just pick up a single yellow card, with his studs-up challenge on Kelly that left the defender limping for the remainder of the match his most notable foul yet not the one he got booked for.
Sarginson’s perplexing performance continued in the second period when Parrett produced a thrusting run to the edge of the box before being hacked down from behind by a red-card contender. Yet Sarginson waved play on and even let Sutton have an advantage, before belatedly pulling back play and insisting on an uncontested drop-ball in their favour in an seemingly random position on the pitch.
Sarginson’s nadir came around the 65th minute when Taylor stretched for a loose ball and was on the end of a studs-up challenge that produced a crack that was audible all around the ground and, it emerged afterwards, split his shin pad. Yet as Taylor writhed on the ground, the crowd’s gasps of horror at witnessing the challenge turned to vociferous condemnation as Sarginson opted to play an advantage to Sutton.
With Wimbledon players increasingly forced into early toe-poked passes in order to avoid a clattering, their possession started to wither and Sutton came more into the game. But there was still no excusing the space given to Deacon to twist and turn on the edge of the box before firing home an equaliser in the 75th minute.
The nasty undercurrent to the evening was exemplified soon afterwards when Sutton’s Jamie Collins clattered Elliott right in front of the Wimbledon bench and then sat on the striker, prompting a melee involving players and coaching staff from both sides.
With Wimbledon visibly tiring as they tried to compensate for being a man short and the unwelcome prospect of extra time looming, Sutton took the lead in the 90th minute.
Sarginson had a hand as another Wimbledon player was poleaxed on the edge of the Sutton box without punishment. After Sutton worked their way up the pitch, a low cross found turning down a Wimbledon appeal for a free-kick on the edge of the unmarked Maxime Biamou who had a simple conversion from close range.
Wimbledon threw Charles up front in an attempt to grab an unlikely equaliser but without reward, and with the final kick of injury time Worner’s goal kick was flicked on and Dan Fitchett scuttled through to lift the ball over the advancing Shea.
After the game Sarginson was reported to have been ensconced in his changing room with the referee’s assessor until beyond 10.30 pm.
‘It was hard to keep our players calm,’ Ardley commented. ‘I’ve never seen them so frustrated at the man in the middle. It was hard – every decision.’
Wimbledon will be glad to get back to the peace and quiet of League One action when they travel to Chesterfield on Saturday 21 January, although they predictably have fitness doubts over several players.
They then travel to Gillingham in midweek before having a welcome weekend to recover.
Wimbledon: Shea, Kelly, Robinson, Charles, Fuller, Reeves, Bulman, Parrett, Taylor (Whelpdale 70), Elliott (Barnett 83), Poleon (Robertson 16). Subs not used: Oakley, McDonnel, Egan, Owens.
Goalscorer: Elliott 10.
Booked: Kelly 57, Barnett 85.
Sent off: Robinson 15.
Sutton Utd: Worner, Amankwaah, Downer (Hudson-Odoi 66), Beckwith, Spence, Gomis (May 66), Eastmond, Collins, Deacon, Tubbs (Fitchett 75), Biamou. Subs not used: John, Bailey, Monakana, Shaw.
Goalscorers: Deacon 75, Biamou 90, Fitchett 96.
Booked: Deacon 34, Spence 43, Collins 82.
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January 18, 2017