Dons defiant to last

Wimbledon 3 (Goodman 10, 47, Harford 90) Aston Villa 3 (Reeve s 33 og, Yorke 48 pen Cunningham 57 og) Attendance: 12,193
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The Independent Online
JOE KINNEAR, the Wimbledon manager, gave a wry post-mortem verdict on this game, saying: "We scored five against a side like Villa and still only come away with a point." He could have added that the goal that saved that point came in the fourth minute of injury time in a game that had seen no injuries. They don't call Wimbledon the Crazy Gang for nothing.

With a Wembley visit already in their diary, Aston Villa might have been excused for not having their foot firmly on the accelerator. For the opening 15 minutes they didn't have much choice, as the Dons' pressure brought a goal in the 10th minute when Jon Goodman, restored to the side after a six-week absence through injury, shot home after Andy Clarke had filleted the Villa defence with a pass that Oyvind Leonhardsen smashed against Mark Bosnich.

The hesitation within the visitors' defence that gifted Goodman the subsequent scoring chance was a portent that, for the first time this season, Villa were to concede three goals.

But the craziness was always going to be at the other end. In the 33rd minute Alan Reeves, attempting to clear a left-wing cross from Andy Townsend, produced a volley which flew past his own goalkeeper. His blushes were momentarily erased four minutes after the resumption when Goodman got a touch to Alan Kimble's corner to head a second beyond Bosnich.

Back to the other end, and yet more craziness. Dwight Yorke turned Reeves in the penalty box and had his legs pulled from under him. The striker got to his feet to stroke the penalty gently behind Neil Sullivan, and two minutes later, his low cross to the far post was turned into his own net by a confused Kenny Cunningham, putting Villa ahead for the first time of the afternoon.

The Villa bench's response to their good fortune was to replace the midfielder Ricardo Scimeca with the veteran Republic of Ireland international Paul McGrath keeping the three-centre-back defence and moving Gareth Southgate into a more forward role.

As the minutes ticked away, Vinnie Jones arrived in place of Marcus Gayle to add muscle to what was increasingly looking like a lost cause. The latter substitution, with four minutes left, was to prove more decisive.

Julian Joachim replaced Savo Milosevic in the Villa strikeforce - "just to give him a taste for five minutes", Brian Little, the Villa manager, later explained. It turned out to be 10 with that added injury time and the young striker, in a promising Villa break, went for glory on a solo run. An older and wiser head would have ambled to the corner flag and whiled away the dying seconds by retaining possession, but Joachim's youthful dash was to cost Villa dear.

From the clearance, Cunningham grasped the chance to make amends for his own goal with a foray into enemy territory. His accurate cross was met by Mick Harford's ageing forehead and it was all square once again.

Few could quibble that a draw was a fair result for an exciting and eventful game played on a heavy, draining pitch that was no aid to the finer footballing arts. It was an occasion when guts and a stubborn refusal to bow the head, certainly on Wimbledon's part, were the true virtues.

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