Ardley makes one-paced Everton pay

Wimbledon 4 Everton 0
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The Independent Online
It was hard to decide which manager was in the greater state of shock after this result. Joe Kinnear kept wondering aloud when was the last time his side had beaten anyone by four clear goals, while poor old Joe Royle just said: "I don't know what happens to us at this place. We were very, very poor today. Embarrassingly so."

In fairness to his players, their record at Selhurst Park is nothing to be ashamed of: they won there on New Year's Day, and they were not all that bad on Saturday. They tried to play attractively, but they were one-paced throughout and lacked the commitment that is always necessary when Wimbledon have their tails up.

As Tottenham found out in midweek, once Wimbledon take the lead, they are a very awkward proposition. Even without Dean Blackwell, the injured England Under-21 international, they have a sound defence, and their direct style is perfectly suited to counter-attacking football.

They were helped on their way by Neville Southall, Everton's highly- distinguished goalkeeper, who had a stinker. For the opening goal, he was caught watching the players rather than the ball as Neal Ardley's innocuous looking free-kick curled past everyone trying to get a head to it and finished up in the net; and for the second, he failed to get a fist to Ardley's corner and Marcus Gayle took full advantage.

Ardley, who had claimed the assist against Spurs, rounded off a highly satisfactory afternoon's work with another corner for Robbie Earle to force a header over the line, and then an excellent ball through for Efan Ekoku to complete the scoring. With Ardley so influential, the unsettled Oyvind Leonhardsen will have a hard job winning his place back if he does decide to stay.

While it was hard to point to a Wimbledon player who played poorly, the other outstanding contributuion was from Earle. He is tireless, unselfish and scores plenty of goals from midfield - something Glenn Hoddle would do well to consider.

As for Everton, as Royle admitted, they have to decide whether Wimbledon can happen to anyone or whether changes need to be made. The one change they made on Saturday, bringing on 17-year-old Michael Branch for his debut in attack alongside a weary Duncan Ferguson, was a breath of fresh air. But it was disappointing that Royle chose to withdraw Tony Grant, who had been one of his better players on the day.

It would probably be foolish to forget Everton's superb start to the season, when they beat Newcastle and nearly won at Old Trafford, but they will be looking for much more passion and aggression from midfield against Middlesbrough at Goodison on Saturday.

Goals: Ardley (33) 1-0; Gayle (46) 2-0; Earle (59) 3-0; Ekoku (73) 4-0.

Wimbledon (4-4-2): Sullivan; Cunningham, Perry, McAllister, Thatcher; Ardley, Earle, Jones, Gayle; Ekoku (Harford, 84), Goodman (Clarke, 75). Substitues not used: Kimble, Jupp, Heald (gk).

Everton (4-2-3-1): Southall; Barrett, Short, Unsworth, Hinchcliffe; Parkinson, Grant (Branch, 52); Kanchelskis, Stuart, Speed; Ferguson. Substitutes not used: Rideout, Ebbrell, Hottiger, Gerrard (gk).

Referee: K Burge (Tonypandy).

Man of the match: Ardley.

Attendance: 13,684.