Dons happy to join the working class

Wimbledon 1 Blackburn Rovers 0
Click to follow
The Independent Online
In a season in which none of the other top teams are looking anything like infallible, Wimbledon's unlikely challenge for the Premiership title needs to be taken more and more seriously as each odds-defying week goes by. Having not lost in 19 matches - 14 in the Premiership - an idea that would once have been considered preposterous has now moved at least into the realms of the possible.

With only two matches to go to the season's half-way mark, Wimbledon are a point behind the leaders, Arsenal, and look to have every chance of staying in the picture for a while yet. Next Sunday they make a potentially awkward trip to Aston Villa, but after that a run of fixtures that takes in West Ham at home, Everton away, Southampton away, Derby County at home and Leicester City away means that their visit to Manchester United at the end of January could well count for a lot.

Saturday's workmanlike victory - to use the description of the Wimbledon manager Joe Kinnear - over a somewhat hard-done-by Blackburn was significant in that it fulfilled one of the criteria by which potential champions are often judged - that they can still win while playing badly.

The previous week Wimbledon had given what Kinnear reckoned was the team's best performance under his charge in winning 3-1 at Sunderland. Against Blackburn, however, they had hardly troubled Shay Given, the Republic of Ireland goalkeeper making his debut in place of the injured Tim Flowers, before Dean Holdsworth struck five minutes from time. The delegation from Denmark, led by the national manager, Bo Johansson, must have gone home feeling distinctly underwhelmed, for all Wimbledon's qualities of organisation.

Wimbledon are often characterised as the Premiership's street urchins, living off scraps, but things cannot be that bad if they can afford to keep a striker as highly valued as Holdsworth on the bench as often as they do. He has played in only 14 of Wimbledon's 22 matches this season, and seven of those have been as a substitute, but the way he has now come on late to score in two matches running rather gives the lie to the notion that the squad lacks strength in depth.

Holdsworth was needed because the Marcus Gayle-Efan Ekoku partnership that has served Wimbledon so well had come up against a defence as intransigent as their own. But while Colin Hendry and Graeme Le Saux were reminding us of one aspect of the Blackburn of old, the lack of penetration up front was all too obvious as Tim Sherwood and Lars Bohinen, in spite of copious amounts of possession, failed to provide Chris Sutton with one decent chance.

Wimbledon were hardly more impressive highly in the creative department, but when the ball fell to Holdsworth from Neil Ardley's header, his finish from 12 yards was swift and lethal, and in the end it needed Given to show us how good he is with a diving save from Gayle to keep the score down.

It should be a buoyant gathering when Wimbledon get back to training today - except, that is, for Vinnie Jones, who Kinnear will be asking to apologise to his team-mates for ridiculing them in the press on Saturday morning.

"It was disgusting," Kinnear said. It is not the first time he has felt let down by his captain - who was absent on World Cup duty with Wales - and while the sun has never shone more brightly on the club, the clouds are once more gathering over Jones's head.

Goal: Holdsworth 1-0 (85).

Wimbledon (4-4-2): Sullivan; Cunningham, Blackwell, Perry, Kimble; Earle, Leonhardsen, Ardley, Fear; Ekoku (Holdsworth, 76), Gayle. Substitutes not used: McAllister, Harford, Clarke, Murphy (gk).

Blackburn Rovers: (4-5-1): Given; Kenna, Berg, Hendry, Le Saux; Gallacher, Bohinen, McKinlay, Sherwood, Wilcox; Sutton. Substitutes not used: Flowers (gk), Marker, Gudmundsson, Donis, Croft.

Bookings: None.

Referee: A Wilkie (Chester-le-Street). Man of the match: Kimble.

Attendance: 13,246.

Comments