AFC Wimbledon exited the Emirates FA Cup tonight at the hands of Sutton United with Paul Robinson’s sending off after just 15 minutes proving crucial.
The Dons battled well with one man less and Neal Ardley’s men were still 1-0 up until the 75th minute, but Sutton exposed the gaps caused by tiring legs with late goals to win it 3-1.
It was a difficult way to be eliminated from the FA Cup, the Dons showing plenty of fight in a vain attempt to stay in it, before being hit by late blows.
A sign of the importance attached to this match was that Neal Ardley selected an unchanged starting 11 from the side that performed so well against Oxford United on Saturday. The manager had warned in the build-up that Sutton were not to be taken lightly and a difficult start for Wimbledon backed that up. Though Taylor flashed a shot just wide at one end, Sutton showed plenty of threat in the first few minutes. James Shea did brilliantly to come off his line so quickly and deny Craig Eastmond, before former Dons loanee Matt Tubbs struck a shot just wide.
After surviving early scares, Wimbledon marched into the lead in the ninth minute with a goal of real simplicity. Yet again, Dean Parrett proved himself as the master of free-kick delivery as he sent in a lovely cross that Tom Elliott met emphatically with a header that left Sutton goalkeeper Ross Worner with no chance.
It had been the perfect start for Wimbledon, but an incident six minutes later changed the game and ultimately cost Wimbledon. Tubbs managed to get the wrong side of Paul Robinson and when the striker went to ground, referee Chris Sarginson had no hesitation in showing a straight red card. Thankfully for Wimbledon, there was no double punishment as the subsequent free-kick from Bedsente Gomis sailed over the crossbar.
Neal Ardley took immediate action after the sending off with Dominic Poleon having to be sacrificed with Chris Robertson replacing him. Robertson was straight into the thick of the action as he reacted quickly to make a clearance after Shea had failed to gather a cross. Far from sitting on defence, Wimbledon actually played well with one man less. Darius Charles cracked a shot over after a great cross from Barry Fuller. The pace of Fuller down the right was certainly a useful outlet with one man less and he produced a brilliant 40-yard run, before striking a cross that was just cut out.
With Dean Parrett’s silky skills and powerful running catching the eye in midfield and Robertson offering a towering presence at the back, Wimbledon were not short of players willing to step forward in difficult circumstances. As the half-time whistle sounded, Wimbledon could be satisfied with a job well done so far, playing with one man less very effectively for half an hour.
The second-half opened with Deacon shooting wide from close-range just seconds in, but the offside flag was up. A sign that Wimbledon would not lie down easily came through Robertson, who made another towering header from a cross. It was not just about resistance for Wimbledon though. A fine moved ended with a cross from Jake Reeves just evading Taylor in the box as Wimbledon sought the cushion of a second. Just after the hour, Lyle Taylor was on the wrong end of a bad challenge that went completely unpunished by referee Sarginson to leave home fans incensed. Fortunately, Taylor was back on his feet after receiving treatment.
Neal Ardley introduced Chris Whelpdale with 20 minutes to go, the experienced attacking midfielder replacing Taylor, who was unable to continue after the rash challenge on him that resulted in no booking. Whelpdale almost had a chance to make an instant impression after lovely play down the flank from Charles, but his cross was just cut out. With 15 minutes left, Sutton levelled the tie through an excellent strike from Roarie Deacon, the forward unleashing a fierce drive from just outside the area that left Shea with no chance.
It was backs to the wall stuff for Wimbledon after that, the hosts forced into resolute defending as Sutton now piled forward for a winner. With Wimbledon needing extra energy to provide an attacking outlet, Neal Ardley sent on Tyrone Barnett for the tiring Elliott. However, with Wimbledon now struggling to contain Sutton, the visitors struck the vital second in the 90th minute. Sutton had men over on their left and when the ball was crossed in, Maxime Biamou was left with a simple task to slot home.
Despite five minutes of injury-time, there was no way back for Wimbledon, Barnett’s long-range shot over the crossbar as the home side’s last chance. With almost the last kick of the game, Dan Fitchett latched onto a long ball and lobbed Shea to signal ecstatic scenes among the visitors. It was a painful way to exit the famous competition, the one-man advantage for Sutton simply proving too tough to overcome for Wimbledon.
AFC Wimbledon: James Shea, Barry Fuller, Sean Kelly, Paul Robinson, Darius Charles, Dannie Bulman, Jake Reeves, Dominic Poleon (Chris Robertson), Dean Parrett, Tom Elliott (Tyrone Barnett), Lyle Taylor (Chris Whelpdale).