Cottee's strike rebounds on Dons

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The Independent Online
MIKE ROWBOTTOM

Wimbledon 0 West Ham United 1

A goal involving swift movement of the ball and players supporting each other in numbers won a competitive London derby at Selhurst Park last night. Wimbledon, in short, were out-Wimbledoned. The scorer, Tony Cottee, might have had a hat-trick after being put clean through twice in the final 10 minutes.

West Ham secured their first Premiership away win this season despite a concerted bombardment from the home side in the second half. Robbie Earl, who hit the bar, came closest after Wimbledon had switched their initial 3-5-2 formation to a barnstorming 4-2-4 involving all three substitutes.

The decisive moment occurred after 18 minutes, when an acute through ball from Michael Hughes sent Robbie Slater in on the keeper. The Australian's lunging effort sent the ball looping up off Paul Heald's legs, and Cottee adjusted himself to volley home his first Premiership goal of the season.

The satisfaction of West Ham's manager, Harry Redknapp, was tempered only slightly by the second-half booking of Julian Dicks, back after suspension but facing an FA charge of disrepute on Thursday following his alleged trampling of Chelsea's John Spencer. Dicks's punishment came after a challenge on Kenny Cunningham, who had himself been booked for upending Dicks in the first half.

"What is he supposed to do?" Redknapp said. "Not tackle? I will go to the FA with him because I need him in my side. He's a magnificent player - he can do everything when he wants to. For 100 grand he's the buy of the century."

Wimbledon, who have conceded 18 goals in six matches, are losing altitude alarmingly. Joe Kinnear, their manager, locked his players in the dressing- room afterwards. He himself did not offer any reflections upon the match, merely sending a message: Joe Kinnear is unwell.

Wimbledon (3-5-2): Heald; McAllister, Thorn (Fitzgerald, 21), Perry; Skinner (Gayle, h-t), Earl, Leonhardsen (Clarke, h-t), Jones, Cunningham; Goodman, Holdsworth.

West Ham United (4-4-2): Miklosko; Potts, Martin, Rieper, Dicks; Slater, Bishop, Moncur, Hughes; Cottee, Dowie. Substitutes not used: Rowland, Hutchison, Sealey (gk).

Referee: D Gallagher (Banbury).

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