Bulman red costs AFC Wimbledon at Exeter as Ardley questions crucial penalty decision

Exeter City 3-2 AFC Wimbledon

Neal Ardley felt AFC Wimbledon were hard done by on Saturday as they fell to defeat at Exeter City.

Adebayo Akinfenwa’s stunning half volley gave 354 travelling Dons fans the best possible start four minutes in, but Dannie Bulman’s red card for a rash tackle 20 minutes later turned the game on its head.

Tom Nichols equalised early in the second half and then put the Grecians ahead from the penalty spot after a foul on Clinton Morrison.

David Wheeler put the home side further ahead and although Exeter keeper James Hamon turned Adebayo Azeez’s effort into his own net to reduce the deficit to one in the final minute, there was no equaliser for the Dons.

And Ardley admitted he felt aggrieved at referee Darren Deadman’s decision to award the penalty.

“We started well and scored a great goal but at times we didn’t defend well, one-to-one defending wasn’t good enough,” he said.

“However, I thought the penalty was soft. At 1-1 we still had something to cling on to and had just put on fresh legs to try and have that energy about us.

“It was still possible at that stage, but it was a soft penalty and that is really hard to take.

“The ball has got played through and there was no way Morrison was going to get it. He has bought that with his experience.”

The defeat, an eighth away trip without a win, could have been so different after Akinfenwa’s goal of the season contender opened the scoring.

Wimbledon’s top scorer, who this week hinted he would like to finish his career with the Dons, used his strength to hold off two defenders before slamming the ball into the top corner from just outside the box.

George Francomb then hit the post before, less than half an hour in, Bulman was sent for an early bath following a rash tackle on Connor Riley-Low.

“If Dannie has gone in two-footed then it has cost the team a long trip and an away performance really,” said Ardley.

We had a game plan, but it all changed on the two pivotal moments. Dannie’s sending off was the first one but the ref may have got that right – I have no qualms about that.”

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