Walsall 1 AFC Wimbledon 3 - Report
It was an afternoon to forget for Walsall as they fell to a 3-1 defeat against AFC Wimbledon at Bescot.
Connor Lemonheigh-Evans fired the visitors into the lead after just six minutes, before Taylor Allen was controversially shown a straight red card for a challenge on Omar Bugiel in the 37th minute.
Freddie Draper equalised with a close range volley on the hour-mark - only for Jack Currie to re-establish Wimbledon's lead two minutes later.
Ali Al-Hamadi added a third late on for the Dons, who inflicted a first home defeat on the Saddlers in League Two this season.
Walsall are developing a theme of going behind early, and that pattern continued when Lemonheigh-Evans drew first blood for Wimbledon inside six minutes.
Al-Hamadi was stopped in his tracks by a sweeping challenge from Oisin McEntee, although Lemonheigh-Evans was following up to help ricochet the ball into his path.
Owen Evans got a glove to his effort from the edge of the box but was unable to prevent it from nestling into the far top corner.
Things went from bad to worse when Priestley Farquharson hobbled off with an injury. This required Mat Sadler to reshuffle with Joe Riley replacing him, while McEntee dropped into defence.
Walsall looked sloppy in every department but came close when Isaac Hutchinson crashed a venomous free-kick against the crossbar. But Walsall found themselves down to 10-men in controversial fashion moments later when Allen was issued a straight red card.
Bugiel stretched out an arm to fend off Hutchinson, which could've been deemed a foul, and the Wimbledon man was then caught by a late challenge from Allen. A yellow card would've been suffice but instead Walsall received a red card for the second game on the spin.
Wimbledon were handed a penalty 10 minutes after the restart when Ryan Stirk was penalised for handling Lemonheigh-Evans' cross inside the box.
Evans dived low to his left to deny Armani Little from 12 yards, and Walsall rallied after his penalty save to equalise.
Hutchinson cut inside from the left and floated an inviting cross into the box towards Draper. The Walsall forward cushioned the ball down on his thigh and struck the ball into the bottom corner on the swerve.
Walsall held onto their lead for a mere two minutes before Currie restored Wimbledon's advantage on the hour mark.
Josh Neufville had seen an attempted cross kiss the cheek of the post, and Walsall had failed to relieve the danger.
Isaac Ogundere lofted a cross to the back post, and Lemonheigh-Evans climbed above Riley to cushion the ball down. Al-Hamadi held off Donervon Daniels and Aramide Oteh to tee up Currie, whose low strike took a wicked deflection off Williams and beyond the reach of Evans.
Wimbledon went in search of a third and almost found it when Al-Hamadi crept down the right to draw a near post save from Evans.
Walsall failed to heed the warning and Al-Hamadi was once again afforded an abyss of space down the right to break in behind. There was definitely a suspicion of offside but Al-Hamadi cut inside to beat Evans at his near post with a clinical finish.
McEntee became the second injury casualty of the afternoon for the Saddlers when he was forced off with a suspected ankle injury. And it took the offside flag to deny Wimbledon a fourth when Josh Davison converted Aron Sasu's cross on the stretch.
Walsall (3-5-2): O Evans; P Farquharson (J Riley 21), D Daniels, T Allen; J Foulkes (H Williams 46), O McEntee (J Matt 79), R Stirk, I Hutchinson, L Gordon; D Johnson (A Oteh 46), F Draper.
Subs: J Smith, D James-Taylor, R Tierney.
AFC Wimbledon: A Bass; I Ogundere, J Lewis, R Johnson, J Currie; C Lemonheigh-Evans, J Reeves, J Neufville (A Sasu 76); A Al-Hamadi (H Pell 89), O Bugiel (J Davison 89).
Subs: N Tzanev, L Brown, A Pearce, J Ball.
Referee: Declan Bourne
Attendance: 5,318 (514)