Saturday, 16 March 2002
Nationwide League Division 1
Selhurst Park
Attendance: 5,224
Ref: Ray Olivier
David Connelly (2), Neal Ardley
3 (1) - (0) 1
Stockport County
Jon Daly
Andy Dibble
John Hardiker
Andy Thomas
Subbed 65
Dave Challinor
Robert Clare
Keith Briggs
Colin Woodthorpe
Ali Gibb
Fraser McLachlan
Jon Daly
Goal 77
Neill Hardy
Subbed 46
Mark Byrne
Sub ((17) 46)(17)
Sam Turner
Chris Williams
Andy Welsh
Sub ((33) 65)(33)
Peter Wild

Stockport County were handed the dubious honour of being the first club to be relegated as they slumped to defeat at Wimbledon.

County's five-year stint in the First Division will come to an end in April after they suffered their 28th loss of the campaign - while Wimbledon kept alive their own hopes of reaching the play-offs.

Dons boss Terry Burton missed the game after being taken into hospital with an abcess on his appendix.

Wimbledon made two changes, bolstering the midfield with experienced players Kevin Cooper and Neal Ardley in place of Lionel Morgan and Joel McAnuff.

Striker Neil Shipperley was named on the bench after recovering from an ankle injury.

Stockport player-manager Carlton Palmer was unable to pick either himself or Luke Beckett because of suspension, so Neil Hardy and Rob Clare - who was given the all-clear after a suspected broken arm - were recalled to the starting line-up.

Wimbledon had the best of the possession early on, but Hardy gave the home side a fright before shooting wide in the 12th minute.

It was Wimbledon who created the first real opening after 18 minutes when Cooper crossed for Ardley, whose shot was spilled but kept out by Andy Dibble.

Chances were few and far between, and when Wimbledon broke the deadlock the goal came somewhat predictably from a set-piece. Connolly coolly dispatched a close-range free-kick to open the scoring after Andy Thomas had fouled Cooper.

The Dons found it hard to build on their advantage, and Jon Daly attempted to bring County level in the 36th minute with a spectacular overhead kick from 25 yards which missed the target.

As half-time approached Wimbledon came close to adding a second goal, but Connolly's 25-yard drive two minutes before the break came back off the woodwork.

The visitors forced a couple of chances early in the second half. Dave Challinor and Mark Burne - a half-time substitute for Hardy - both put the ball wide within sight of goal.

County were made to pay in the 65th minute when Connolly latched on to Patrick Agyemang's pass and fired past Dibble for his second goal of the afternoon.

With the Stockport defence reeling, Wimbledon extended their lead just five minutes later when Ardley headed home Trond Andersen's cross from six yards.

Just as they were being overwhelmed, County rallied and Daly turned Andy Welsh's cross into the net to reduce the arrears with 12 minutes remaining - but it was not enough to save his side from the drop.