AFC Wimbledon manager Neal Ardley admitted ‘the best team won’ after his side’s 3-1 defeat to the Cobblers on Saturday but that didn’t stop him from criticising John-Joe O’Toole, accusing the Town midfielder of ‘conning’ the referee to win an early penalty.
Only seven minutes of the contest had passed when referee Carl Boyeson awarded Northampton a spot-kick for an apparent foul on O’Toole, who was brought down by Dons goalkeeper George Long having pounced on a loose ball inside the box.
Matt Grimes stuck away the subsequent penalty and though Deji Oshilaja headed Wimbledon level early in the second period, Matt Crooks and Daniel Powell consigned Ardley’s men to a second defeat in four days after they also lost to basement boys Bury on Tuesday.
“It was not a penalty, I’ve seen it back,” said the Dons boss afterwards. “The lads around him said he threw himself to the ground and that’s exactly what happened, he’s conned the ref.
“The referee could not wait to give it and it’s not the first time with this referee, but I am not going to make that an excuse. My team did not give the supporters what we wanted to give them and what they deserve.
“It’s a tough league. Northampton got nine players in with seven out, totally reshaping the squad. They’ve got some good players and a powerful squad.
It was not a penalty, I’ve seen it back. The lads around him said he threw himself to the ground and that’s exactly what happened, he’s conned the ref.
“Everyone is fighting for their lives down there and you will see that teams down the bottom will be in good form. We have to get ourselves back in good form.
“We had a good January and we’ve let ourselves down in February. It’s been a poor week and we need to try and make sure that we pick some points up in the next two games. It’s just about consistently chipping away at your points total, but we’ve had a really bad week.”
In the same week that Ardley was nominated for January Manager of the Month when they picked up three wins in five, Wimbledon have lost to relegation rivals Bury and Northampton and are now just one place and one point above the Sky Bet League One drop zone zone
“It has been a terrible week,” admitted Ardley. “My thoughts are that the best team won (on Saturday). We did not do enough. They came with a plan.
“It was not a penalty but that cannot excuse what happened for the rest of the game. At half-time we tweaked things a bit to try and get that urgency and tempo into the game.
“I thought we did that for 10 minutes and then you are thinking, ‘we’ve made a good call there, everything is great’, but then you cannot defend the way we defended after that. The togetherness and team spirit need to be better than ever because this week has not been good enough.
“We’ve looked disjointed, we haven’t handled pressure very well, we haven’t handled adversity very well and we’ve defended poorly.”