Can Wimbledon's woes possibly worsen? Their much-ravaged playing staff battled the division leaders bravely and at times impressively, only to finish losers by a single goal again and with nine men on the field.
Defeat is something their manager, Stuart Murdoch, has had to grow accustomed to as a club in administration loses key players on a weekly basis, but the double dismissal of goalkeeper Steve Banks and new centre-back Mark Williams prompted a diatribe against the referee, Michael Ryan. Banks was sent off inside the last 10 minutes when he raced from his area in a bid to short-circuit another surging run from Norwich danger man Darren Huckerby. The bouncing ball struck his arm, if you believe the referee, or his chest if you believe Wimbledon's distraught players. So upset was Williams, who has arrived on a free transfer from US club Columbus Crew, that he was shown a straight red for what Murdoch described as "questioning the referee's parentage".
Murdoch warmed to his theme: "The referee was weak all afternoon. He wanted to be the centre of the show, and he was. I just hope he enjoys writing all those reports out tomorrow, because I got no satisfaction from watching him. He was a typically arrogant person and at the end when I suggested he might profitably watch a video of his decisions he told me to get away. We will work hard at getting better on Monday. Will he work hard, will he be better next week?"
Wimbledon were also angry that Mr Ryan disallowed what they considered a genuine equaliser in the second half when the captain, Ben Chorley, headed in Ben Harding's corner, but Norwich manager Nigel Worthington said the decision was correct because of a foul on his goalkeeper, Robert Green. "I just don't know what else can happen to us," added Murdoch. "Most of my team were in the under-19s last season. Is it easier for a referee to give decisions against young players than against experienced ones? Everything seems to be going wrong, the roof is falling in. We find it very hard to score a goal, and when we do the ref disallows it."
Worthington praised Wimbledon for the "great dignity" with which they are handling their problems. Those problems were exacerbated by the threat of Huckerby, especially in a first half when Norwich had the benefit of bright sun and a cold, hard wind at their backs.
Huckerby's goal was a stunning volley smashed past Banks from Paul McVeigh's deep cross. Banks made a scrambling save of a wind-assisted swerver from Damien Francis, facing his former team-mates, but after half-time Wimbledon got on to the front foot. Wade Small contributed good runs and Jamal Campbell-Ryce worked impressively on the right.
However Dean Holdsworth, who scored twice for Wimbledon against Norwich 11 years ago and is now, because of all the departures, the top scorer with three, was unable to snap up a couple of openings. So worried was Worthington that he brought on a midfielder, Matt Svensson, for striker Iwan Roberts but Mr Ryan's flourish of cards rendered such caution unnecessary.
Wimbledon 0 Norwich City 1
Half-time: 0-1 Attendance: 7,368
- More about:
- Georgia (usa)
- Industrial Music
- Industrial Rock