Football : Earle breathes life into Dons

Manchester United 1 Scholes 89 Wimbledon 1 Earle 90 Attendance: 53,342

Drama at the death, with two goals in the last two minutes, produced the replay at Selhurst Park on Tuesday week that had looked probable for much of the game at Old Trafford yesterday.

It seemed that Paul Scholes had won the game for a makeshift United, missing half of their regular first team, when he dived to head home Eric Cantona's cross but gutsy Wimbledon, who might even have won the game had they been more ruthless, responded immediately when Robbie Earle headed home Alan Kimble's free-kick.

The last time United had lost an FA Cup tie was in the final of 1995 against Everton, their only defeat in the competition, in fact, for four years. Yesterday's team, however, was a shadow of the potent force that has dominated the competition in the Nineties.

Injuries to David May, Ronnie Johnsen and Gary Pallister meant that Alex Ferguson fielded a defence comprising two FA Cup debutants in the 19-year- old Michael Clegg and 21-year-old Chris Casper, with Roy Keane lining up in the middle of a back five. In addition, David Beckham was missing while Andy Cole and Ole-Gunnar Solskjaer were only substitutes, Eric Cantona the spearhead.

Suddenly Wimbledon, beaten 3-0 at home by United on opening day, would have fancied the task even more. Though recent defeats at Aston Villa and Leicester have interrupted their Premiership momentum, their progress to the semi-finals of the Coca-Cola Cup testifies to their doughty cup character.

United's aim seemed to be to draw Wimbledon forward and strike on the counter-attack, through the wide men Karel Poborsky and Ryan Giggs. As much was seen when Wimbledon were caught out by a neat one-two between Cantona and Giggs, the latter's cut-back from the byline being blazed over the bar from six yards by Keane, who despite the piece of wasteful finishing was beginning to stride forward confidently.

It was, however, a rare United attack amid Wimbledon's pressure as they clearly felt the game to be within their grasp. They should have had the lead when Earle's cross dropped invitingly for Marcus Gayle but he sliced his volley wide. Soon after, Dean Blackwell almost bundled home Vinnie Jones's cross.

Keane was being forced into a towering performance at the back for United, though yet again he undermined his work for a yellow card after a lunge at Oyvind Leonhardsen. He had some help from the hard-worked Peter Schmeichel, who dived to save a low shot from Efan Ekoku after Neil Ardley's corner had reached him.

For all their dominance, however, they continued to look vulnerable when United broke and Neil Sullivan, contentiously, was adjudged to have brought down Poborsky on the edge of the Wimbledon penalty area as they chased Brian McClair's through ball. From Giggs's curling free-kick, the goalkeeper atoned with a splendid save, however, repeating it moments later as United sustained a spell of pressure.

The pattern continued after half-time with United now looking more assured as they sought to increase the tempo of the game. Perhaps they, too, sensed that Wimbledon, having failed to take advantage of the patchwork nature of the home side, were beginning to entertain self-doubt when they should have been more ambitious in seeking a goal.

Cantona's ball infield found Keane again surging forward past Jones and though his shot was sliced wide, it was more like the United all have come to fear. An end to the deadlock also looked feasible when Cantona chased a through-ball by Giggs, whose influence was growing, only to fall under challenge from Kimble. The referee, Graham Poll, was unimpressed, booking Cantona for diving, indeed.

Now Wimbledon sought respite in the counter-attack and they looked sure to score when Gayle raced clear. Ekoku could not quite reach his low cross and another chance went begging.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Developer (TSQL, SSRS, SSAS) Fund Manager - London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Harrington Starr: SQL Developer (TSQL, S...

Software Developer (JavaScript, TDD, Jasmine, Angular.JS)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Software Developer (JavaScript, TDD, Jasmine, An...

Front-End UI/UX Developer (HTML5, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, Ang

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-End UI/U...

C#.NET Server Side Developer (C#, XML, WCF, Unit Testing,SQL)

£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C#.NET ...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition