Blackburn Rovers. . .1
FOOTBALL, as the phrase goes, was the loser, the early bath the winner, in a match that, though fate twisted and turned even more deftly than Stuart Ripley on a good day, somehow ended up a draw. Ripley did not have a good day and nor, more to the point, did referee Martin Bodenham, unless clearing Wimbledon's cluttered home-from-home of surplus footballers is a measure of superior refereeing.
Selhurst is never an easy place to play football, but Blackburn will need to do better if they want to keep up with the Norwiches and Coventrys of this world. Even so, having finished the match with only nine men, they will be happy not to have done worse.
The distribution of the points, however, is not what this match will be remembered for. Both managers complained afterwards about Mr Bodenham's refereeing. Only one dismissal out of the three, in which Mike Newell pulled off a magnificent save from Dean Holdsworth when Bobby Mimms had strayed from his line, did not raise eyebrows. Unfortunately for Wimbledon, justice was not to be found on the spot. The previously invisible Mimms was in the way of John Fashanu's penalty. His save was almost as good as Newell's.
'Maybe we don't need a sub goalie,' said the Blackburn manager, Kenny Dalglish, afterwards, but his mood and that of his counterpart Joe Kinnear was less than jovial.
Kinnear, the Wimbledon manager, was particularly exasperated by the expulsion of Vinnie Jones, who was booked for jostling Kevin Moran and booked again for using bad language in the debate that followed. John Fashanu, who had earlier been booked for fouling the same player, had to be restrained from succumbing to the same fate.
'I think we should be allowed to publicly rate referees,' he said.
He added: 'I am not angry but if guys are trying to play, at least they deserve understanding about what is happening and consistency in decisions.
'This was definitely the worst refereeing performance we have come up against this year. That is not a complaint - it's a fact. We can't argue that Mike didn't deserve to go but Tony Dobson went for his first foul.'
After this mild mannered tirade Dalglish advised one journalist to hold on to his tape of the press conference for him: 'I might need it,' he said.
Kinnear, who may have lost only one player but was less good humoured than Dalglish, because his was the side that came closer to victory, was even less worried about mincing his words. 'I don't care if I do get in trouble for saying what I think. Managers get charged with disrepute for saying certain things but referees are getting away with murder,' he said.
He added: 'I asked the referee at half-time why Vinnie had been sent off and he said that it was for using abusive language to another player. I have never heard of anyone going off for that before. You hear industrial language on the pitch every week. There was foul and abusive language from nearly all the players today, so he was entitled to send them all off. I thought the referee lost control of the whole situation.'
The match itself did not do much for the game's repute, either before or after the dismissals. After a typical bout of head tennis, Neil Ardley gave Wimbledon the lead, but Alan Shearer replied eight minutes later when sent through by Ripley.
The big spenders began the second half in good heart, the big vendors having lost Jones on his home debut, only to see Dobson dismissed for a foul that hardly merited such a punishment.
Once Newell had gone they were happy to sit back and wait for the whistle rather than allow Wimbledon their second win of the season.
Wimbledon: H Segers; W Barton, G Elkins, V Jones, J Scales, D Blackwell (S Fitzgerald, 69 min), N Ardley, R Earle, J Fashanu, D Holdsworth, A Clarke. Subs not used: P Miller, N Sullivan (gk). Manager: J Kinnear.
Blackburn Rovers: B Mimms; D May, T Dobson, T Sherwood, C Hendry, K Moran, S Ripley (K Hill, h/t), M Atkins, A Shearer, M Newell, A Wright. Subs not used: R Wegerle, M Dickins (gk). Manager: K Dalglish.
Referee: M Bodenham (Cornwall).
Goals: Ardley (1-0, 24 min); Shearer (1-1, 32 min).Reuse content