AFC Wimbledon manager Neal Ardley heaped praise on play-off rivals Portsmouth after their 1-0 win at Kingsmeadow last night but insisted their winning goal should not have stood.
Referee Andy Madley failed to give a free-kick when Sean Rigg was upended on the halfway line and just two passes later, Portsmouth were in front through former Dons striker Michael Smith.
Rigg lost out in a challenge with Danny Hollands who released Gary Roberts down the left hand side and the midfielder’s dangerous low cross was expertly dispatched by Smith into the bottom corner.
Ardley had a perfect view of the incident from the home dugout and was amazed the referee failed to blow up, for what he felt was a certain foul.
He said: “The disappointing thing for me was their goal and the man who played a massive part in it.
“Sean Rigg has been taken out and the ref is standing right in front of it.
“He gave away loads of silly free kicks early on and then decided not to for one where Rigg knocked the ball away and gets taken out above the knee.
“Instead he decides to wave play on and within two passes, the ball is in the back of our net.”
The Dons now need two points from their remaining two matches to secure a place in the play-offs.
They travel to a resurgent Stevenage side on Saturday before entertaining Newport in the final game of the season on May 7.
It could have been very different as Darius Charles had a good chance to open the scoring in the 9th minute from a Callum Kennedy corner but his header was well saved by Pompey keeper Paul Jones.
Smith controversially broke the deadlock on 34 minutes before finding the back of the net again just four minutes later, but his second effort was ruled out for a push on Charles.
Wimbledon changed tactics at half time as Jake Reeves replaced Rigg in midfield and they performed much better in the second half.
Paul Robinson and his defensive partner Charles both headed narrowly over from Kennedy corners before Andy Barcham raced clear and dragged his shot wide of the far post.
Lyle Taylor had his first real chance of the match after an hour when he was put through on goal but substitute goalkeeper Brian Murphy raced out to deny him at the last second.
Portsmouth had two excellent chances to double their lead as the Dons pushed for an equaliser, firstly through Kai Naismith, whose tap-in was blocked on the line by Barry Fuller, and then through Roberts, who brushed the far post with a left-footed strike.
As the game drew to a close, Wimbledon were limited to half chances and boss Ardley believes much of that was down to the work ethic demonstrated by 6th place Portsmouth.
He said: “I thought Portsmouth were outstanding tonight, they went brave and played a diamond which caused us problems as we couldn’t get a foothold in the game.
“You have to feed off scraps sometimes and it becomes really difficult; they were everywhere and tonight they did to us what we have done to a lot of teams.
“We’ve had a few scraps in the box but they defended really well so when you throw caution to the wind they are going to get some chances at the other end.
“But I thought they were one of the best teams that have come here in a long, long time.”