Those who went to the JJB Stadium expecting to see Wigan Athletic pass final judgement on Wimbledon by sending the Dons down from the Nationwide First Division left sorely disappointed after Ben Chorley delayed the inevitable by heading the only goal of the game from Jason Puncheon's corner kick.
"We will get relegated, we know that," the pragmatic Wimbledon manager, Stuart Murdoch, admitted, "but we are building for next season and hope to be in a position to start with a flourish."
Bradford City look almost as doomed a the Dons. They lost 1-0 to Preston North End at Deepdale and are 11 points from safety with six matches left. The on-loan Everton midfielder Scot Gemmill scored Preston's winner five minutes into the second half.
The Bantams manager, Bryan Robson, thought last Saturday's last-minute defeat by Burnley had taken its toll. "The result knocked the stuffing out of the players," he said.
Derby County's manager, George Burley, was furious with the penalty which Walsall's Lee Bradbury scored to earn the Saddlers a 1-0 win at Pride Park. Bradbury and the Derby defender Michael Johnson tussled. And then? "It was shocking," Burley fumed. "The linesman put his flag up straight away for a free-kick to us and the ref awarded Walsall a penalty! There's no doubt about it, the referee has won the game for Walsall today and that could be very costly for us."
The Rams are two points adrift of Gillingham, who lost 2-1 at home to Cardiff City. Robert Earnshaw added to the goal he scored for Wales in midweek with a close-range header to gave Cardiff the lead. The Gills equalised thanks to Chris Hope's header, but four minutes from the end Lee Bullock, on loan from Third Division York City, struck Cardiff's winner. There was still time for Alan Pouton to miss a penalty for the Gills.
Nottingham Forest moved into a mid-table comfort zone when Gareth Taylor's second- half goal wrapped up a 2-1 win over Sheffield United at Bramall Lane. Joe Kinnear's resurgent side got off to a fine start when Marlon King fired in a deflection. The Blades, still hopeful of a play-off place, were on level terms just before the hour when Alan Wright scored from a 20-yard free-kick. But Taylor's headed winner against his former club gave Forest a record of five wins and four draws in Kinnear's 11 matches.
"We've a good chance of staying up," Kinnear said, "and if we do then we will certainly give the play-offs a good crack next year".
Coventry City's play-off dreams had a rude awakening in a 1-0 defeat at Stoke City, Kris Commons firing in from a free-kick after he had been fouled by Stephen Warnock. Crewe Alexandra and Rotherham United fought out a goalless draw at Gresty Road.
The top two in the Second Division both lost, leaders Plymouth Argyle going down 1-0 at Barnsley while third-placed Bristol City drew level on points with Queen's Park Rangers, second on goal difference, after beating them 1-0.
In the Third Division a 2-1 win at Swansea City lifted perennial strugglers Carlisle to within five points of safety with six matches to go.Reuse content