AFC Wimbledon boss Mark Bowen was bemused by the decision of referee Anthony Blackhouse to award Fleetwood Town an indirect free-kick that led to the hosts scoring a late equaliser in Saturday’s 1-1 draw – and all but relegating the South Londoners.
The Dons took the lead in the 22nd minute when academy duo Ayoub Assal and Jack Rudoni combined in the box, with the latter teeing up Luke McCormick to place a shot into the top right-hand corner.
Mark Bowen’s side were on course to record their first win in 137 days and close the gap to survival to just one point, and give themselves a fighting chance heading into the final game of the season at home to Accrington Stanley.
Nik Tzanev took two touches of the ball to take a free-kick, which led to Backhouse awarding Fleetwood an indirect free-kick just inside the Wimbledon penalty area in the 88th minute.
From the edge of the box, Joe Garner curled a shot along the ground around the seven-man Wimbledon wall and past the out-stretched Tzanev to all but condemn the Dons to League Two next season.
“I’m angry, and I’m disappointed,” Bowen told the club’s official website.
“I’ve just been to see the referee, and he has told me that he can’t even remember if he blew the whistle to restart the game after the free-kick was awarded, which I find quite staggering.
“Our goalkeeper knew it was a free-kick, and, like every goalkeeper, he put the ball down and tried to nick a few yards while the referee was running away. The referee then blew and said that he had kicked it twice after the free-kick had been given.
“I asked the referee: ‘Why would a keeper kick the ball twice? There’s only one possible scenario – he didn’t hear the whistle being blown.’
“The common-sense approach would have been to ask the keeper if he had heard the whistle, reset it and then play. But, instead, he’s given them a free-kick, and they’ve scored from it.
Wimbledon will have their relegation confirmed on Tuesday night if Fleetwood pick up a point against Sheffield Wednesday.
“I didn’t say much to the players in the dressing room – at times like this, they just need to be left with their own thoughts,” added Bowen.
“I feel for them. We’ll stay professional and look to put a performance on for our fans against Accrington [Stanley].”
PICTURES: LUCY DIXON