House of Payne: Never leave a football match early, just ask fans of AFC Wimbledon
The idea that a football match lasts “90 minutes” is as defunct as the old football magazine of the same name.
It seems amazing now to think in the old days (well pre-Premier League, anyway) referees generally used to blow up exactly on time unless someone had got carried off on a stretcher.
Hearing former referee Clive “The Book” Thomas this week throw his 10-penneth into the debate about Andre Marriner wrongly sending off Arsenal’s Kieran Gibbs after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain handled the ball in their 6-0 defeat at Chelsea, brought back memories of the most famous examples of that.
At the 1978 World Cup in Argentina, Brazil had won a corner in the last minute of a group game against Sweden and the ball was hanging in mid-air as the official checked his watch and decided the second 45 minutes was up.
The farce that followed is now part of football folklore – as Thomas shrilled his whistle, Zico powered his header into the net.
It’s a good job Thomas was not the referee for AFC Wimbledon’s past three matches because they would now be embroiled in a League Two relegation scrap.
One more win from their remaining seven games should be more than enough to secure safety, while six points from those matches will mark their best return since winning promotion to the Football League three years’ ago.
In each of their past three games, the Dons have scored vital stoppage time goals – equalisers from Darren Jones and Sammy Moore against Burton and Northampton, sandwiching Jack Midson’s winner in Saturday’s thrilling 4-3 win over Chelthenham.
Wimbledon manager Neal Ardley suggested last week he had taken an Alex Ferguson-style stance towards timekeeping.
To come back once in that style might be coincidence.
To do it three times in a row suggests Ardley has instilled some tremendous resilience and fitness levels into his players – and ensured no Dons fans will be leaving early if things don’t go to plan at Mansfield on Saturday.
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