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Constable red card takes gloss of victory
AFC Wimbledon 0, Oxford Utd 3
A second away win in four days ensured Ox-ford United head into the New Year looking up the table, but a perfect away day was spoiled by a harsh red card for James Constable.
The striker received a straight red card after he was adjudged to have elbowed Will Antwi midway through the second half.
United complained bitterly about the decision and they appeared to be backed up by television evidence which showed ‘Beano’ had not raised his arms.
It was a shame the red card distracted from what was otherwise an excellent performance, which stretched their unbeaten run to nine games.
Sean Rigg and Alfie Potter combined to give the visitors a 2-0 lead at the break.
After defending well, the points were selected when Tom Craddock pounced on an error, giving the U’s an ample cushion to cope with going down to ten men.
Heavy rain put the game in doubt, but once the game started the surface coped well, for which Wimbledon deserve credit.
United made just one enforced change to the side which started the 3-1 win at Exeter City in Boxing Day.
With Liam Davis injured and Tony Capaldi suspended, Luke O’Brien came into the side at left back for the first time since October.
The visitors were the first to threaten. Potter had two sights of goal, dragging one effort wide and drawing a smart stop from veteran keeper Neil Sullivan with the other.
Wimbledon were given a foothold in the game by the award of two questionable handball decisions on the edge of United’s box.
Both were wasted, with Paul McCallum blasting over and U’s goalkeeper Ryan Clarke catching Rashid Yussuff’s tame effort.
Around the half-hour mark the visitors began to control of the game.
Potter was at the heart of United’s most dangerous moments and the winger was key to a clinical move which broke the deadlock on 32 minutes.
Collecting the ball from Cox, he cut across the Wombles’ area, delaying his pass expertly to slip in Rigg, who lifted the ball over Sullivan and into the net.
Within five minutes the pair’s roles were reversed.
Rigg crossed from the left and Potter, the shortest man on the pitch, rose to head in. .
The cushion gave United a swagger on the ball, but Wimbledon almost pulled a goal back on the stroke of half time.
Jack Midson’s left-footed drive skidded a whisker wide of Clarke’s left-hand post.
The home side came roaring back into the game after the break and it needed a brilliant clearance on the goal line by Peter Leven to keep Wimbledon out.
The key moments came just after the hour mark.
Antwi had a glorious chance to score from Toby Ajala's cross, but he headed wide.
When United broke forward they were gifted a third goal when Stacy Long attempted to head the ball back to Sullivan.
The midfielder only succeeded in playing ina lurking Craddock, who could not believe his luck and gratefully buried the ball into the net for his 11th goal of the season.
The points looked in the bag for the visitors, but midway through the half they were rocked by a dismissal.
Antwi collapsed after an aerial challenge with Constable and the referee produced a straight red card.
It incensed United’s bench and fans, particularly as the centre back recovered quickly after the card was shown.
Wimbledon had just over 20 minutes to make their numerical advantage count.
United showed plenty of appetite to defend, though and kept clear chances to a minimum.
A clean sheet, and the three points, were well deserved, but Constable’s sending-off took the edge off United’s great joy.
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