Southend substitute Cauley Woodrow’s late intervention condemned Wimbledon to just their fourth home league defeat of 2013 after they had battled bravely with 10 men.
The turning point in the 1-0 defeat was referee Graham Scott’s decision to show George Francomb (pictured) a straight red card in the 41st minute, a sending off that the club will appeal against.
Neal Ardley made one change to the starting line-up from Mansfield Town 12 days earlier by bringing back Sammy Moore for the injured Kaid Mohamad. The suspended George Porter was replaced on the bench by fit-again Chris Arthur and youngsters Charlie Fayers and Chace Jacquart were also among the substitutes.
Playing with the sun behind them, the Dons kicked off towards the Nongshim End and were soon on the attack as a lively Francomb, playing wide on the right, produced a surging run and cross that was only just cleared before Charlie Sheringham or Michael Smith could reach it.
The Dons retained possession for long periods and promotion-chasers Southend United struggled to impose themselves in the first-half.
Following a flurry of Wimbledon corners, came the best chance of the first-half. Luke Moore latched onto Francomb’s short corner, before beating his man and setting up Sammy Moore for a shooting chance. When the Wimbledon midfielder’s effort was charged down, the ball fell nicely for Francomb and his fine curler resulted in a superb full stretch save from Southend goalkeeper Dan Bentley.
Referee Scott booked Sammy Moore and Sheringham in quick succession, the latter’s foul resulting in Southend finally showing why they’re flying high in League 2. From the subsequent free-kick, the ball fell for John White and he produced a powerful drive from 25 yards that Dons goalkeeper Ross Worner saved brilliantly.
The game turned into a scrappy affair, but Wimbledon had a good spell of possession, albeit without creating a meaningful chance. The hosts were perhaps shading it when referee Scott decided to give Francomb his marching orders. The assistant referee flagged after what appeared to be a fine tackle on Robert Kiernan by Francomb, who went down himself in the process. The home faithful were therefore stunned when the man in the middle brandished a red card for Francomb, a decision that completely changed the momentum of this match.
Jack Midson replaced Sheringham at half-time, and he was soon in the thick of it against a club where he once spent a brief loan spell. Midson played a delightful ball through for strike partner Smith, who produced a decent strike that was deflected wide.
Interestingly, the Dons now began to move the ball around with ease, but without creating that clear-cut opening. It became a strange game. The Dons still dominated possession and Southend were seeking to break with pace, very much in the style of a counter-attacking team. It was very similar to how Hull City played under Brown in the Premier League. There had been no half-time team talk on the pitch today though, a method that earned Brown mixed headlines when he employed that unusual tactic at Manchester City many years ago.
Southend finally started to push on with their one-man advantage and Michael Timlin cut in from the right and struck a powerful drive that the in-form Worner did well to save.
However, it was not until the 60th minute introduction of Woodrow, who is on loan from Fulham, that they really started to threaten.
Before that Jim Fenlon, who deservedly earned the sponsor’s man of the match, went on a surging run from the half way line, before his shot lacked pace.
Then with 14 minutes to play, a cross from the right saw Woodrow leap unchallenged and head home from six yards. Undeserved would be an under-statement.
Rather than buckle as at Bristol Rovers two week previously, the Dons began to press more and more. Southend became cynical. Luke Moore was hacked down in front of the assistant referee, but no action was taken. Then Anthony Straker took out substitute Kevin Sainte-Luce in front of the Paul Strank Stand and received a yellow. He was subbed a minute later.
Freddie Eastwood, who joined the fray ten minutes earlier, then made a late tackle on Barry Fuller. With the home fans baying for a red card, a yellow was brandished.
Next up was Midson, who took the ball into the penalty box and was sliced down, but the referee was again unimpressed.
It was a game that lacked quality overall and though Wimbledon could take heart from a battling display considering the circumstances, they have now failed to score in more than 330 minutes and they will need to rectify that at home to Plymouth Arglye on Sunday.
AFC Wimbledon: Ross Worner , Jim Fenlon, Callum Kennedy (Kevin Sainte-Luce ), Peter Sweeney , Andy Frampton, Barry Fuller, George Francomb, Sammy Moore, Michael Smith, Charlie Sheringham (Jack Midson), Luke Moore (Chris Arthur).