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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Jerry Seinfeld Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
peopleSitcom star urges men to be more supportive of women than ever
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
Jay Z
businessJay-Z's bid for Spotify rival could be blocked
footballLouis van Gaal is watching a different Manchester United and Wenger can still spring a surprise
The spider makes its break for freedom
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Administrator

£14400 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a multi-d...

Recruitment Genius: Service, Maintenance & Installation Engineers - London

£34000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This provider of Energy Consult...

Austen Lloyd: Planning Solicitor - Bristol

£50000 - £70000 per annum + Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - FIRST CL...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner - Night Shift

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A leading Leicestershire based chilled food ma...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot