Gayle force five hits Watford

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The Independent Online

By the end of the party, Wimbledon were playing with numbers. Five goals, scored in chronological order by players numbered seven, eight, nine, 10 and 11, horribly swamped a Watford side the arithmetic of whose Premiership salvation is beginning to seem complex indeed.

By the end of the party, Wimbledon were playing with numbers. Five goals, scored in chronological order by players numbered seven, eight, nine, 10 and 11, horribly swamped a Watford side the arithmetic of whose Premiership salvation is beginning to seem complex indeed.

It was a triumphant note on which to end an uneasy week for the Dons. Word is that their self-styled governor, Sam Hammam, is at odds with the club's Norwegian owners. Essentially they, we gather, want to sell players; Hammam wants those players to keep the club in the big league. You would think that, in Hammam's mind, 5-0 on the field will equate to fifteen-love in the boardroom.

Wimbledon, though, are the national champions when it comes to trouncing adversity. Their confidence stoked by a very presentable recent run of form, they wasted no time in getting the home fires burning.

Only momentarily troubled in their own defensive third, the Dons were two up within 32 minutes. Both goals were the result of Alan Kimble's well-flighted left-wing corners. His first, after 15 minutes, found the meaty forehead of the returning John Hartson, but after Micah Hyde had scrambled the Welshman's effort off the line - Hartson, incidentally, was clearly piqued by a linesman's failure to indicate the goal as his - Carl Cort was on hand to drive the ball back in, leaving no doubt it had crossed the line this time.

Having scored his ninth goal of the season, Cort was pivotal in his side's second. His header, from another Kimble corner, was guided over the last yard or so of its goalward journey by Robbie Earle. Before the break, Cort had a further "goal" chalked offside and Kenny Cunningham delivered a cross-shot that saw Alec Chamberlain in the Watford goal leap to tip over the bar.

Swamped though they generally were, the visitors almost hit back with the last attack of the first half. But, having escaped his full-back with splendid sleight of foot, Michel Ngonge shot weakly at the Dons' goalkeeper Neil Sullivan.

Watford's much-lauded spirit was undiminished by the apparent hopelessness of their plight. They began the second half with renewed vigour and Dutch striker Nordin Wooter went close from long range. All of their efforts, however, were rendered pointless when Cunningham's cross from the right found Hartson at the back post, who was afforded sufficient time to measure his shot and score Wimbledon's third.

Now, every Wimbledon attack hinted at a goal. The fourth came when Jason Euell held off a couple of vain defensive challenges, pirouetted into the penalty area and drove low past the exposed Chamberlain.

The fifth goal was the best of the lot, Marcus Gayle striking a blistering left-foot volley from the edge of the box.

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