Earle in element as Dons advance

Wimbledon 2 Crewe Alexandra 0
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The Independent Online
While the third round of the FA Cup is rightly about romance, those that follow deserve more worthwhile competition. So neutral observers should surely be grateful that rather than Crewe heading to Manchester for sacrificial slaughter on Saturday afternoon, it will be the all-together different proposition of Vincent Jones and company taking to the turf at Old Trafford.

After a depressingly workmanlike performance in the replay in front of less than 5,000 spectators last night, however, it is difficult to imagine Wimbledon causing the holders anything more than minor irritation.

Crewe have a reputation for being a quick, clever and well organised team, and the early minutes did little to dispel this. After just six minutes, Dele Adebola turned past the last defender and advanced on the goal from a narrow angle, but could not find the target.

Unfortunately for the visitors, the unease in Wimbledon's back line was mirrored in their own, and their opponents' nerves were considerably eased five minutes later. Jones's long throw from the right seemed to give Peter Billing every chance to clear, but his header fell to Robbie Earle who needed no second invitation to shoot past the feet of Jason Kearton.

Despite this reverse, Crewe continued to look as likely as their hosts to find the net and it was the Second Division team who had the best chance during the remainder of a sterile first half. Adebola found Colin Little, but his shot was met by Neil Sullivan's fine low save.

That Crewe's endeavour was to find little reward was clear within a minute of the restart. First, Oyvind Leonhardsen's cross from the left allowed Dean Holdsworth, starting a match for the first time since November, to force the ball home from close range, and then, within seconds, Danny Murphy found himself advancing on goal at the opposite end of the ground. His shot, however, flew wide.

Wimbledon (3-5-2): Sullivan; Blackwell, Perry, McAllister; Cunningham Jones, Leonhardsen, Earle, Ardley (Jupp, 90); Holdsworth, Gayle (Harford, 87). Substitute not used: Goodman.

Crewe Alexandra (3-5-2): Kearton; Billing (Tierney, 71), Westwood, Macauley; Smith, Whalley, Charnock, Savage, Murphy; Adebola, Little (Garvey, 63). Substitute not used: Barr.

Referee: P Danson (Leicester).