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The BBC's Alan Green
"City were second best"
 real 28k

The Bradford boss Paul Jewell
"It was a nervy and edgy game"
 real 28k

Sunday, 30 April, 2000, 16:18 GMT 17:18 UK
Wimbledon suffer agony at Bradford

Flik-flak time: Beagrie celebrates Bradford's debatable opener
Bradford 3-0 Wimbledon

Bradford took a huge step towards Premiership safety with a highly controversial victory over relegation rivals Wimbledon.

The win takes Paul Jewell's team, who had been written off as certainties for the drop all season, out of the bottom three with just two matches left this season.


Match facts
43: Beagrie scores a controversial penalty
50: Beagrie's hopeful effort makes it 2-0 to Bradford
50: Hartson is sent off for rowing with the ref
83: Windass wraps up City's vital win
But Egil Olsen's Wimbledon could be heading for the Nationwide League after suffering one of the most frustrating days in their proud 14-year top-flight tenure and losing their eighth game in a row.

Bradford were out-played for much of the game - but they had all the good fortune on offer and took the lead following one of the most questionable penalty decisions the Premiership has seen all season.

Peter Beagrie put the Bantams ahead from the spot and added a bizarre second goal before Wimbledon striker John Hartson was sent off.


Winter
Referee Winter was not the toast of Wimbledon
And if that all was not bad enough, Wimbledon's strikers missed a number of glorious chances that should have given them the point that was the very least they deserved.

Bradford scored a late third through Dean Windass against the run of play to the delight of the incredulous home faithful.

Dons' defiant start

The last time Wimbledon played at Valley Parade was the last league game they ever played outside the top flight - way back in 1986.



The result was disappointing, but the performance was outstanding. We were on top and had most of the chances, but the decisions cost us the game.

Wimbledon assistant boss Terry Burton
The south London club were determined that their return to the West Yorkshire venue would not spell the end of their long spell in English football's highest echelon.

And the day started so brightly for the visitors, when their star player Hartson was included in the starting line-up - despite the fact that the Welsh striker has not even played a reserve team fixture since suffering a knee injury last December.

Bradford boss Jewell named the same team that had helped keep the Bantams' survival hopes alive with victory at Sunderland last Monday.


saunders
Saunders won the penalty
Wimbledon, whose renowned passion has been questioned under Olsen this season, began the game in committed style and dominated possession right from the start.

They should have taken a priceless lead after 21 minutes when Jason Euell was presented with an open goal.

Bradford keeper Matt Clarke flapped at Michael Hughes' corner, missed the ball completely and it fell invitingly for the unmarked Euell just seven yards out - but somehow, with the goal at his mercy, he fired his shot over the bar.

With Bradford pinned back into their own area, Euell again came close from another Hughes corner - but this time his hooked effort was headed off the line by John Dreyer.

Spot-kick shocker

Bradford offered little threat themselves - and their first genuine chance did not arrive until the 35th minute, when Dons goalkeeper Neil Sullivan expertly turned away a sharp strike from veteran forward Dean Saunders.



It was a very nervy game, but we got the breaks at the right time. The penalty looked a harsh decision, but you have to take them when they come along.

Bradford boss Paul Jewell
But after being out-shone for most of the first half, Bradford suddenly took the lead just before the break.

Saunders appeared to blast his shot straight at his marker Ben Thatcher - but, despite the fact that few on the home team appealed for a hand-ball, the linesman flagged for a deliberate offence and referee Jeff Winter blew for a penalty.

The decision appeared to take virtually everybody in stadium by surprise.

But while Wimbledon may have been fuming, for Bradford this was not a day to question your team's good luck and Beagrie beat Sullivan with a penalty fired up the middle.

Beagrie's traditional cartwheel celebration only served to increase the sense of injustice among the Londoners as they trooped off at half-time, haranguing the officials as they left.

Premature exit

The force was now clearly with Bradford and Wimbledon's challenge was effectively destroyed five minutes after the restart - amid further controversy.


Olsen
Olsen has a tough task ahead of him
Bradford's Wayne Jacobs appeared to handle the ball wide on the left, but no free-kick was given and Beagrie cut inside and launched a speculative long-range drive.

Sullivan should have comfortably saved the shot, but it deceived the keeper and hit the back of the net.

If Wimbledon's position was not bad enough, their cause was further hamstrung almost immediately when Hartson was dismissed for using foul and abusive language towards the referee.

Carl Cort could have put the Dons' 10 men back into the match, but he headed wide when Euell's cross found him just two yards out at the far post.

Despite their numerical disadvantage, Wimbledon continued to be the more threatening side and Clarke did well to keep out Neal Ardley's shot.

Wimbledon's agony was complete seven minutes from time as Bradford scored another soft goal.

There appeared little threat as Windass collected the ball wide in the Dons area, but his persistence beat the hapless Sullivan and - with the shellshocked defenders just looking on - he stroked the ball home from a tight angle.

The third goal sent the Valley Parade crowd into raptures - but for Wimbledon it marked a sorry end to a game they will immediately want to forget.

Teams:

Bradford: Clarke, Halle, Wetherall, O'Brien, Jacobs, Windass, McCall, Dreyer, Beagrie, Saunders, Blake.
Subs: Wright, Westwood, Sharpe, Rankin, Davison.

Wimbledon: Sullivan, Cunningham, Blackwell, Thatcher, Hreidarsson, Euell, Ardley, Hughes, Andersen, Cort, Hartson.
Subs: Heald, Gayle, Lund, Jupp, Roberts.

Referee: J Winter (Stockton-on-Tees)

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