AFC Wimbledon boss Mark Bowen stunned by referee’s decision in draw at Fleetwood

Posted Sunday, April 24, 2022 by PA

AFC Wimbledon boss Mark Bowen stunned by referee’s decision in draw at Fleetwood

Mark Bowen was damning in his assessment of Anthony Backhouse after the referee’s decision led to Fleetwood snatching a 1-1 draw that virtually relegated his AFC Wimbledon side.

The Dons led through Luke McCormick’s goal midway through the first half but a head-scratching decision by the official allowed Joe Garner to score an 88th-minute goal that all-but guaranteed they will play in League Two next season.

Confusion reigned as goalkeeper Nikola Tzanev inadvertently played a free-kick to himself and was penalised by the referee, and Garner’s strike from the resulting set-piece saw the Cod Army leave the visitors three points form safety with a poor goal difference heading into the final game of the season.

“It’s hard to put into words how I feel,” said a crestfallen Bowen.

“Things have conspired against the team yet again. He gave a free-kick against our goalkeeper because he says he touched it twice after blowing, because he says ‘it’s the law’.

“I asked him ‘why he would touch the ball twice, he obviously didn’t hear the first whistle?’ So there’s a reason he’s touched it twice, he didn’t know it was a free-kick and didn’t hear the whistle.

“He didn’t make himself clear, he just said it was the letter of the law.

“People could possibly lose their livelihoods and the club could get relegated on the back of that. We haven’t won in 20-odd games but it’s hard to take that.

“We were 2-0 up and I wasn’t even looking at the clock, we were that comfortable, but to concede a goal that gets you relegated on a decision like that, well I don’t know how to put it into words, I’m stunned.

“If I had any criticism we didn’t retain possession but it was such a nervy, edgy game and they knew the importance of it. But they’ve done everything right and it’s been stolen away from us.”

The point saw Fleetwood climb out of the drop zone on goal difference ahead of their game in hand against Sheffield Wednesday this week, and boss Stephen Crainey was delighted that their destiny remains in their own hands.

“These are tense times, especially with where we are in the table,” he said.

“I was just really pleased with the commitment the lads showed in the second half, especially after the disappointment of going a goal down in the first half.

“Joe Garner showed a bit of composure as well, I thought he was just going to put his laces through it but he stayed calm and composed and that’s down to the experience he’s got, and he’s just passed it into the net, it was a really good finish.

“I thought we could have gone on and won the game after that but the way the other results have gone we’ll take the point and move on to Tuesday.

“The remit is to stay above that line and I’m not too bothered how we do it, regardless of whether it’s points or goal difference but we have two games left and six points to play for so it’s still in our own hands.

“We will go to Sheffield Wednesday with confidence after that equaliser and there’s a buoyant mood in the camp so we have to maintain that on Tuesday. It’s going to be another battle and it’s one we’ll be ready for.”


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