Ardley ponders what might have been, as Hammers down the Dons
AFC Wimbledon 1-3 West Ham United
Neal Ardley says fans were robbed of a proper cup tie by the soft dismissal of defender Rod McDonald, which left AFC Wimbledon with an 10 men for most of Tuesday night's Carabao Cup clash.
The Dons boss was proud of his side's efforts to hold onto a 1-0 lead against their Premier League opponents, but West Ham's monopoly of possession and chances told in the end as three second half goals gave Manuel Pellegrini his first win for the club.
Joe Piggott powered in a header from a corner in the second minute. McDonald was sent off after 18 minutes and the Dons held out until the 63rd minute, when Issa Diop fired in from outside the box t make it 1-1. Angelo Ogbonna turned in a corner seven minutes from time to give the Hammers the lead for the first time, and former Man United striker Javier Hernandez grabbed a third in injury time.
McDonald picked up two cards in quick succession, the second when ref Tim Robinson decided he had denied Hernandez an opening on the edge of the area by tugging at his arm.
"Personally, I feel that the sending off was soft," Ardley said. "I think maybe one of them's a booking but there's hardly any contact for me on the second booking. I don't think that the centre forward's getting anywhere near the ball. It's not stopping a goalscoring opportunity and I don't think the ref's got a great view of it.
"For me it's a game changer and you have to be sure when you are making a game-changing decision.
"From that moment on, the game's ruined. I know we did brilliantly and we held out to 1-1 for 80 minutes or so, but the game's ruined at that moment.
"Did he (Hernandez) dive? For the contact there was, absolutely. It's not like a yank of the arm. Not like a pull of the shirt where you can honestly say he's been tugged back. It's an arm on an arm.
"We came with an intention to attack and cause them problems and for 15 minutes we did that. After that it becomes very very tough. Hopefully fans saw a plucky well-drilled team that did their club proud. I'd have like them to have seen us have a right go but we lost that from the 19th minute onwards."
Pellegrini denied feeling a great sense of relief in registering his first win following three league defeats.
"I think the patience of the team was very important. It's not a relief. To continue in the Carabao Cup is the most important thing, but now we start tomorrow with the same pressure to win the first points in the Premier League.".