Date: 2nd December 2013 at 9:32pm
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This was a head-shaking loss. The somewhat flattering 3-0 margin (and the referee) was kind to Bristol Rovers, but it was the lack of composure and petulance from certain players which left a sour taste as Wimbledon’s reputation took a dive.

Wimbledon’s travelling 572 fans should have rightly expected more from their team coming in on the back of four unbeaten league games against an under-strength Rovers team, wallowing in 22nd spot and searching for their first home win in three months. Yet the Dons conceded three goals for only the second time in the league this season.

Neal Ardley did not sugar coat it and called it for what it was: “It was dreadful from us. Really, really poor?. I apologise to our fans for travelling all this way to have to witness that.”

Referee Gavin Ward may have had better days, but Wimbledon were awful and as unpalatable as it may be some players let the Club down.

The game had its pivotal moment in the 13th minute when Michael Smith surged onto a through ball and went down in a challenge.

Referee Ward enraged the Dons and the bench by instead giving a free-kick to the home side. Wimbledon`s players encircled the official howling in protest.

How contentious was the decision? This is what some of the Rovers fans thought of it: “It looked like a pen from the South stand” ?. “That was erm, the ref’s call. Good call” ?.. “Looking across the front edge of the penalty area from the open terracing I wouldn’t have been surprised if it had been given!” ?. “From the middle of the Blackthorn it looked like a pen to be honest; for a change the ref seemed to be on our side today!” ? “A 50:50 tussle and could easily have been a penalty”. Even Rovers manager John Ward conceded: “We may have got a break with a decision early on.”

An aggrieved Ardley said: “The referee told me in the tunnel that he thought he saw something, but I think he made a decision based on a guess. He has penalised our striker even though he was not sure, which is ludicrous. It was a clear-cut penalty and most of the fans in the ground thought it was.”

Yet the disappointing part was the Dons reaction after the decision went against them. Heads dropped, some players lost it. The referee (rightly or wrongly) in the course of the game handed out six yellow cards, two of them supposedly for diving. Bristol Rovers received none.

The Pirates went on to plunder. David Clarkson unleashed a powerful drive 20 yards out that left Ross Worner with no chance in the 19th minute and as Wimbledon retreated deeper into their own half Tom Parkes was left unmarked from Lee Brown’s in-swinging corner and headed home from just a few yards out on 31 minutes.

The Dons came back and just before the break Alan Bennett twice came close with headers and George Porter was berated with his every touch after he claimed a first-half penalty.

Ardley rung the changes in the second-half with Luke Moore and Kevin Sainte-Luce introduced, while Porter was hauled off for Jack Midson in the 63rd minute moments after he was booked amid a crescendo of boos.

Porter stayed off Twitter after the match and just as well as Dons fans tore strips off him.

“Fed up with Porter’s performance and behaviour today,” said one. “The whole crowd was calling him a wanker as he was subbed,” added another. “Porter is like a grumpy teenage child, petulant and moody. It’s time for him to grow up.”

And this stinging rebuke: “I do not want sulky petulance ruining our name. Especially from a player we don’t even own; No matter how good he is. Sorry Mr Porter if my kids behaved like you did, I’d give you a clip around the ear.”

Kaid Mohamed also went into the book for diving and it didn’t sit well then to read on the Bristol Rovers forum one describing the Dons as “diving, moaning, cheating gits.”

Sammy Moore ended a sorry afternoon when he received his second yellow card and was sent off nine minutes from the end.

“I don’t know about the first one, I couldn’t see that, but the second one was a late one,” Ardley said of Moore’s red card. “You don’t go flying into that on a yellow card. It was petulant.” There’s that word again.

There is losing and there is losing. The refereeing was definitely a factor, but hopefully there will be some home-truths spelled out in team meetings between now and the Dons next league outing against Mansfield Town.

Bristol Rovers rounded off what proved their most joyous day of the season so far with a Matt Harrold penalty and conceded by Luke Moore near the end.

The players would not have enjoyed Ardley’s blast in the team dressing room after the full-time whistle.

“Disappointed doesn’t even scratch the surface,” the gaffer fumed. “Credit to Bristol Rovers because they were excellent and played with a great tempo. They did all the stuff that League Two demands, the givens I call them.

“It makes me even more angry because I sit there and watch the opposition, make sure my players are prepared, and we knew everything this game would be. Every single element of that game out there was what I told the boys would happen.

“They were prepared for this game but turned up without one ounce of the things that are within our control – the energy and the desire – we got bullied from start to finish, down the sides, at both ends of the pitch and again I give credit to Bristol Rovers. We were dreadful.

“I’m extremely annoyed and I’ve let the players know my feelings.”

So the Dons left the Memorial Stadium again empty-handed but everyone more downhearted than the 1-0 defeats last season and the one before.

Unfortunately, because of the Dons’ FA Cup exit to Coventry City they will be without a game until December 14 against Mansfield Town at Kingsmeadow. So plenty of time to brood over this performance and hopefully get it out of the system.

Dons fans can only scratch their heads that their side can beat teams 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th on the current standings, yet pick up two points from matches against Accrington, Northampton, Cheltenham (at the time in the bottom three), Bury and Bristol Rovers.

As WDSA columnist Ray Armfield helpfully points out: “Mansfield are our next opponents and have just lost five on the bounce. It’s not going to be groundhog day for us once again, is it?”

Life’s never dull, following Wimbledon.

Written by Onyadon aka Rob Smith.

Rob writes the Wimbledon Downunder Supporters’ Association (WDSA) blog and lets us use this blog with his permission.

To view WDSA – Click Here.