Dons are grateful to Goodman

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Football

SIMON O'HAGAN

Wimbledon 3 Huddersfield Town 1

Eight years after the self-styled Crazy Gang caused one of the biggest upsets in FA Cup history, their successors are in distinctly sane mood as they head back towards Wembley. Wimbledon's dismissal of Huddersfield in their fifth-round replay last night was measured, even muted, and, having won at Chelsea already this season, their visit to Stamford Bridge in the quarter-finals on Saturday week looks finely balanced.

The Premiership meeting between the teams that takes place this Saturday might offer some clues to the outcome. What is clear, however, is that while the years may have mellowed Wimbledon in some respects, their still rigorous and pacey football is the of the sort that is suited to knock- out competition.

Three times Wimbledon have been drawn away in the FA Cup this season and three times they have taken their opponents back to Selhurst Park and beaten them. That requires nerve and, if there was one factor in the superiority Wimbledon eventually enjoyed over highly capable First Division opponents, it was in the certainty of their touch in front of goal.

Huddersfield created chances throughout the evening, many more, in fact, than they had in the first match when they were flattered to take a 2- 0 lead. But having gone ahead again, they quickly lost their advantage, and from then on Wimbledon never looked in the mood to let their lead slip, hard though they had to battle.

Wimbledon made light of the absence through suspension of Dean Holdsworth and Mick Harford on what turned out to be an excellent night for the much less familiar pairing of Jon Goodman and Efan Ekoku. Goodman added another two goals to the pair he had scored on returning to the side against Aston Villa on Saturday. Ekoku, who had kept Wimbledon's hopes alive at the McAlpine Stadium with an equaliser more than two minutes into injury time, produced a superb strike for his third goal in the tie.

On his first full appearance since New Year's Day, Vinnie Jones also emerged with credit. Jones has been on the transfer list for two months, and while interest fails to materialise the Wimbledon manager, Joe Kinnear, feels he may as well make use of him. There now looms the prospect of Jones renewing acquaintance with Ruud Gullit.

Huddersfield took the lead in the eighth minute when Andrew Booth outjumped Neil Sullivan, the Wimbledon goalkeeper, to send a looping header into the empty net. It stayed that way for less than two minutes. Wimbledon's equaliser was emphatic - a searing volley into the top left-hand corner by Ekoku after a headed clearance by Lee Sinnott, an FA Cup runner-up with Watford in 1984, fell short.

Simon Collins twice squandered chances from the elusive Ronnie Jepson as Huddersfield continued to break effectively, and his team paid for that five minutes from half-time when Goodman pounced on a ball that Steve Francis could not hold.

Jepson skimmed the bar from 30 yards and in a second half which was mostly Huddersfield's was the victim of a cruel bobble as he shaped to shoot from Booth's cross. That was his team's last chance. With six minutes remaining Goodman wrapped it up with a neat lob over Francis.

Wimbledon (3-5-2); Sullivan; Blackwell, Reeves, Kimble; Jones, Earle, Leonhardsen (Clarke, 76), Gayle, Cunningham; Ekoku (Euell, 89), Goodman. Substitute not used: Pearce.

Huddersfield Town (4-4-2): Francis; Jenkins, Sinnott, Gray, Cowan; Collins, Makel, Bullock, Dalton (Rowe, 59); Booth, Jepson. Substitutes not used: Reid, Dunn.

Referee: P Alcock (Redhill).

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