Fast forward a little, to November 1999, one of the best Huddersfield Town teams of recent memory – Dean Gorré, Marcus Stewart, Ken Monkou. It was party time – the Terriers were flying in the First Division (by then the second tier) and had recently embarked on a 6 game winning streak, scoring 14 and conceding three. Rather typically, that was thwarted by Walsall, but a win at Manchester City lifted them up to 2nd so a League Cup tie against Wimbledon wasn’t the worst draw in the world – especially having won at Chelsea in the previous round.
It was no surprise, then, to see a thrilling encounter between the two sides, the strong West Yorkshire winds buffeting both sides – the play often being direct as a result of necessity than design. It was equally no surprise to see a dominant Town start rewarded by a Scott Sellars goal just after the half hour. Sellars had only just come on for the injured Chris Beech, but he was on hand to turn in a Ben Thornley free kick. It was a lead the home team held on to, and looked to be on the way to a famous upset.
That was, at least, until one of those bolts from the blue that occur every now and then. Full-back Alan Kimble was without a goal in his entire Wimbledon career, so quite what he was thinking as he stepped up to take a free kick after Jason Euell had been fouled is a matter of debate. However, a clear thirty yards from goal, Kimble rifled the ball past Nico Vaesen to restore parity – it was to be his only goal for the Dons, but a memorable one; very memorable.
And so, with the score set at 1-1 and the game entering its last minute, Terriers’ striker Clyde Wijnhard burst past Dean Blackwell into the area before going down under Blackwell’s challenge. It looked, it’s fair to say, a clear penalty so the Town players were apoplectic as Winter waved away their protests and watched the game ebb into extra time.
At the end of the match, the referee explained that he’d not given a penalty because Wijnhard (not a delicate player at the best of times) had fouled Blackwell in the build-up to the penalty area incident. That said, he failed to give Wimbledon a freekick at the time – something noted by Huddersfield chairman of the time, Ian Ayre.
“We are considering asking for compensation for losses for not being in the next round,” the reptilian humanoid acknowledged, “we would like to be reinstated in the competition but we are too long in the tooth to expect that to happen.”
Of course, at 1-1, there’s no guarantee that Town would have gone on to win the game – a pill made all the more bitter for Jason Euell heading home a Kimble cross for the Dons to give them victory, and a quarter-final with Bolton Wanderers. They lost.
Huddersfield went top of the table that Saturday with a 1-0 win against QPR, but that was as good as it got. Maybe the compensation Ayre expected would have prevented the inexplicable sale of Marcus Stewart to Ipswich later that campaign. Maybe not.
That’s not quite the end of the story, though. Jeff Winter came back to haunt Wimbledon later in the season during – coincidentally – a game against Huddersfield’s local rivals Bradford City. The Bantams’ Dean Saunders blasted a shot at defender Ben Thatcher that he had little chance to get out of the way of as it struck his hand. No appeals were forthcoming, but Winter pointed to the spot, Bradford took the lead and the game was up.
Wimbledon were further incensed when Wayne Jacobs looked to have handled the ball in the build up to Bradford’s second goal, scoring by flipping Peter Beagrie. That ire culminated in a dismissal for foul and abusive language for the meek-mannered John Hartson, another thing to forget in a 3-0 defeat that was just one of many reasons for Egil Olsen’s side’s relegation that season.
Did Town have a case? It should have been a penalty. It wasn’t given. Sometimes they’re not. Get over it. 2/10.
(Additional info from New Straits Times (Malaysia) 03/12/1999)