Earle breaks Dons duck

Football: Wimbledon 1 Tottenham Hotspur 0
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The Independent Online
It took Vinnie Jones exactly an hour at Selhurst Park last night to open his red card account for the new season, but not even the 12th sending- off of the Wimbledon captain's career will take the smile off Joe Kinnear's face this morning.

After the row with Dean Holdsworth that ended with the striker handing in a transfer request yesterday afternoon, the first goal and the first points of the season could not have come at a better time for the Wimbledon manager.

The decisive moment arrived after just two minutes, with Tottenham's reshaped side still finding their feet. Neal Ardley's corner kick came straight back to him, and at the second attempt he delivered an inch-perfect cross to the far post, where Robbie Earle rose above Colin Calderwood to head past Ian Walker's flailing left hand.

It took Spurs some time to recover from the shock, and Wimbledon might have increased their lead when Jones, of all people, attempted an audacious volley from fully 40 yards that had Walker back-pedalling furiously before he tipped the ball over.

It was not until the 34th minute that Tottenham answered back. The Danish international Allan Nielsen, on his debut, found Darren Anderton in half a yard of space, and the England man's smartly struck volley grazed the outside of the post.

As half-time approached, the visitors, missing Teddy Sheringham and Chris Armstrong in attack, began to find their way back into the match, and Andy Sinton brought the best out of Neil Sullivan with a curling shot that was palmed away.

What had always been a keenly contested London derby turned ugly 10 minutes after the restart and, sadly, it was Jones who was the culprit. A strong run by Sol Campbell into the Wimbledon penalty area was met with a firm challenge from Ardley. While the Spurs player lay injured on the ground, Jones ran to remonstrate with Anderton. Calderwood intervened and he and Jones were booked for their troubles. Kinnear later revealed that Jones claimed he had been spat at. But Jones was not satisfied, and four minutes later he was sent off for kicking out wildly at Anderton.

Moments later, with the pot still boiling, Tottenham's Jason Dozzell was lucky to escape with just a booking as he clearly hit out at Ben Thatcher. But Tottenham, despite their superiority and numerical advantage, were unable to stave off their first defeat of the season.

Wimbledon (4-3-3): Sullivan; Cunningham, McAllister, Perry, Thatcher; Ardley, Jones , Earle; Goodman (Kimble, 64), Ekoku (Clarke, 80), Gayle (Harford, 80). Substitutes not used: Heald (gk), Jupp.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-5-1): Walker; Edinburgh, Campbell, Calderwood, Wilson; Fox, Anderton (Nethercott, 74), Howells, Nielsen (Allen, h-t), Sinton; Dozzell (Rosenthal, 74). Substitutes not used: Baardsen (gk), Carr.

Referee: S Dunn (Bristol).

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