For the 11th part of his looking back series at memorable Wimbledon matches from the past three decades, Stephen Crabtree selects a painful away day that proved costly in the battle to stay in the Premier League.
Stephen, who is Editor of the Historical Don, explains the circumstances around Wimbledon’s controversial defeat at Bradford 20 years ago. Season 1999/2000 is the only relegation campaign in Stephen’s series, and the loss at Valley Parade turned out to be crucial in deciding Wimbledon’s fate.
Saturday 30th April 2000: Premier League
Bradford City (1) 3 Beagrie (pen) 43, 50, Windass 83
Wimbledon (0) 0
Fired up having been out injured for months, John Hartson was said to have struck Stuart McCall in the tunnel prior to the crucial relegation six pointer at Bradford two decades ago. Whatever the truth of that rumour, the disastrous consequences of defeat at Valley Parade were long-term. Egil Olsen was sacked within 24 hours of the debacle, and caretaker boss Terry Burton could not save the Dons, as relegation ended 14 years of top-flight football.
Described as the “biggest game in the club’s history” by Bantams chairman Geoffrey Richmond, the Yorkshire side certainly got the breaks. The first of those came on 21 minutes when Jason Euell missed an open goal after Matt Clarke flapped at a cross. Then another Euell effort was headed off the line by John Dreyer. Just before the break City went ahead thanks to a dubious penalty. Dean Saunders blasted a shot straight at Ben Thatcher and the linesman flagged for a generous hand ball.
There was more Dons anger about City’s second five minutes after the restart when Wayne Jacobs appeared to handle the ball out wide but nothing was given and Peter Beagrie cut inside to unleash a speculative effort that beat Neil Sullivan and entered the net. That was too much for Hartson who launched a verbal tirade at the linesman – and got a red card that had been bubbling since the tunnel. Wimbledon were down and out long before Dean Windass completed the scoring.
Wimbledon: Sullivan, Cunningham, Thatcher, Blackwell (Gayle 62), Hreidarsson, Andersen, Ardley, Hughes, Euell, Cort, Hartson.
Of course, the Dons enjoyed a much happier occasion at Bradford City last year - and you can take a look below at a short video of our 'Staying Up Party' in Yorkshire!