Stadium or no stadium, supporters or no supporters, at least there are some constants left in Wimbledon's rapidly changing world.
Swathes of empty seats around Selhurst Park told their own story at a club besieged with internal politics over their proposed move to Milton Keynes. Yet one thing is certain: Wimbledon have not lost their knack for claiming the scalps of their supposed superiors. For Terry Burton's team, a second victory this season over Kevin Keegan's sidebrought back memories of happier times. Suddenly the days when Wimbledon provided a constant pain in the side of the Premiership's élite did not seem so long ago.
Two second-half goals from Neil Shipperley inflicted the damage on the First Division leaders, but it was the manner of their loss which concerned their manager. "Wimbledon deserved to win but I was very disappointed with our performance," Keegan said. "The Wimbledon I used to know are very different to today's team. Terry's team like to play a bit of football and Selhurst Park is no longer an intimidating place to play. It was disappointing to see so many empty seats."
Keegan's attacking style of football failed to materialise as an uneven playing surface combined with resolute Wimbledon defending frustrated City. They dominated the first half, enjoying the lion's share of possession but, after an early miss by Shaun Goater, the visitors struggled to reproduce the form that saw them beat Ipswich 4-1 in the FA Cup last weekend.
It was Wimbledon who created the first openings, with Neal Ardley and Damien Francis both going close. Those chances were of their own making but defensive errors by City then helped the Wimbledon cause. After 33 minutes City's defence was caught cold as Michael Hughes took a quick free-kick to an unmarked Shipperley, who finished with ease.
After the interval, City pressed hard for a leveller and it eventually came through Ali Benarbia in the 54th minute. The former Monaco player collected a deflected Darren Huckerby cross, shimmied past three defenders before rolling the ball beyond Kelvin Davis.
However, City's desire for a second goal allowed Wimbledon chances on the counter-attack and Shipperley could have scored again after 57 minutes. He did not have to wait long. After 69 minutes, City's Eyal Berkovic fouled Ardley just outside the area and then dived to the floor holding his face. He was booked for his theatrics but more importantly, from the resulting Ardley free-kick, Shipperley scored the decisive second goal.
City threw everything at Wimbledon in the final 20 minutes and could have drawn level through Goater but his effort was ruled out for offside. City's afternoon got worse in injury time when Stuart Pearce was sent off for a professional foul on Joel McAnuff.
"Often my players have to work twice as hard to generate that atmosphere, so today was a treat," Burton said. "Manchester City are my tip to win the League but today it was us that showed great character and team spirit."
Goals: Shipperley (34) 1-0; Benarbia (54) 1-1; Shipperley (69) 2-1.
Wimbledon (4-4-2): Davis; Cunningham, Holloway, Andersen, Hawkins; Cooper, Ardley, Francis, Hughes; Agyemang (McAnuff, 90), Shipperley. Substitutes not used: Kimble, Willmott, Morgan, Gore (gk).
Manchester City (4-4-2): Weaver; Jensen, Pearce, Wiekens (Negouai, 82), Dunne; Horlock, Huckerby, Berkovic (Edghill, 77), Benarbia; Goater, Wright-Phillips. Substitutes not used: Dickov, Ritchie, Nash (gk).
Referee: P Dowd (Stoke-on-Trent).
Bookings: Wimbledon: Hughes. Manchester City: Berkovic. Sent off: Manchester City: Pearce
Man of the match: Shipperley.
Attendance: 10,664.Reuse content