Wimbledon dominated Corinthian-Casuals in every aspect of this game apart from the all-important scoreline, somehow emerging with only a single point after a 1-1 draw. But the major talking points related to the decisions of referee Forrester in and around the visitors? penalty area.
Micky Woolner and Steve Butler were both fit enough to start, while Andy Frost was handed his first start since Fleet Town away in early January. Mark Cooper also passed a fitness test, while Mark Jones was deemed sufficiently recovered from his midweek injury for a place on the bench. With no normally left-sided players fit enough to start, Dave Anderson opted to stick with a 3-5-2 formation, with Gavin Bolger on the right and Andy Frost on the left. Micky Woolner partnered Chris Gell and Rob Ursell in midfield.
The Dons made the early running as Ursell chipped just wide, Frost had a long-range effort saved and visiting keeper Williams was forced to rush back to tip a wayward back-pass wide. Casuals for their part were forced into some desperate tackles amid some dogged defending in numbers, although the referee seemed disinclined to spoil the flow of the game by awarding free-kicks for anything bar the more blatant acts of attempted bodily harm.
But Wimbledon were dominant, passing the ball well in front of the Casuals defence and searching for an opening. Andrew Martin flicked a Cooper header over the bar from a Woolner corner attempting a repeat of their Hastings double act.
And on 27 minutes the breakthrough came. Frost?s deep cross was headed back across goal by Antony Howard at the second attempt and the unmarked Butler nodded home from inside the six-yard box for one of the simplest goals he?ll score this season.
Ursell was set-up by Martin on the edge of the box, but sent a shot straight at Williams. After 33 minutes, Casuals finally had their first shot on goal, but Simmon?s speculative half-volley was easily saved by Smith. Richard Butler was then hacked to the ground just inside the area in full view of both referee and linesman, but not for the first time the officials waved play on.
As half-time neared, Ursell ended another clever run with a curling shot from just outside the box which was just too close to Williams, who held the ball diving to his left. One-nil was no more than the Dons deserved at the break after being very much in control.
Casuals looked slightly more adventurous in the second half, but Wimbledon continued to enjoy the lion?s share of possession and territorial dominance. After a Martin knockdown, Richard Butler was wiped out by a flying challenge inside the penalty area, but yet again the referee managed to see no infringement, even denying the poleaxed frontman treatment after the ball had gone out for a throw-in.
Smith had to scramble across his goal when a Cass shot took a looping deflection at the other end, but tipped it wide for the first of three away corners in quick succession. But by and large Casuals were content to sit deep, often having seven players blocking the Dons? route to goal. Martin sent a shot wide after a clever turn. Richard Butler rounded the keeper but couldn?t get a shot in. The ball fell to Martin, but Williams regained his feet in time to save the eventual shot. Two further attacks were halted by debatable offside flags.
The most questionable decision of the day so far followed soon afterwards as Richard Butler chased a ball down the inside right channel. For the third time in the game he was fouled in the area, this time by a heavy shove from behind. Not only did the referee not give the Dons player the decision, he halted play to book Butler for simulation. Extraordinary.
Two minutes later Butler chased a ball over the top again. This time he was clipped and pushed from behind by Rodrigues on the edge of the area. Finally the referee gave a decision in favour of the blond striker, with Rodrigues surely lucky only to be booked as Butler was clear. Casuals got off the hook as Martin?s low free-kick cannoned off the wall.
Despite their burning sense of injustice the Dons felt, they were left ruing the fact that they couldn?t find a second as Casuals somehow dragged themselves level with nine minutes remaining. In agonising slow motion a low cross found its way across the penalty area for Simmons to tap home at the back post. The away team celebrated as if they couldn?t believe their luck having been penned back for so long, with their unexpected equaliser giving them an extra yard of pace and increased belief for the game?s finale.
Despite plenty of huff and puff, the Dons couldn?t find a way through again. Woolner had a shot from distance saved by Williams as the game entered injury time. But a draw was the outcome, leaving Wimbledon ruing their own profligacy and the three penalties that weren?t.