Football: A gift from above as Earle punishes errant Saint

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Wimbledon 1

Southampton 0

Wimbledon bounced back from two consecutive League defeats, thanks to a howler from Southampton's Kevin Richardson which presented Robbie Earle with the match winner at Selhurst Park yesterday.

Staale Solbakken's cross appeared to pose no danger with Richardson and Ken Monkou looking safe bets to clear comfortably.

But Marcus Gayle won a header on the edge of the area and to Richardson's dismay the ball went under his foot as he attempted to clear, falling straight to the lurking Earle. The Jamaican World Cup recruit could not believe his luck as he completed the simple task of beating Paul Jones from eight yards.

After defeats against Bolton and Manchester United the Dons badly needed victory to keep them comfortably in the middle of the table.

But without Vinnie Jones, relegated to the bench, they lacked their usual bite in midfield and were outplayed for long periods of the game by Saints.

Earle's goal on 17 minutes briefly sparked the home side into life and Carl Cort tested Jones from 25 yards with a low shot.

But with precious little of quality on display, the home fans concentrated on making their feelings known about the prospect of a move to Dublin.

Cards proclaiming "Dublin is Death" and "Dons belong in Merton" were distributed outside the ground and displayed prominently among the sparse crowd.

Wimbledon began the second half with a much greater sense of urgency and could have doubled their advantage had Jason Dodd not blocked a near- post effort from Cort with three minutes gone.

Surprisingly, after 55 minutes Egil Ostenstad replaced Matt Le Tissier, who had produced some glimpses of individual brilliance that threatened to give the visitors the parity they deserved.

Goal: Earle (18) 1-0.

Wimbledon: Sullivan; Cunningham, Blackwell, Thatcher, Earle, Solbakken, Gayle (Jones, 86), Perry, Hughes, Ardley, Cort (Kimble, 58). Substitutes not used: Jupp, Clarke, Heald (gk).

Southampton: Jones; Dodd, Palmer, Monkou, Lundekvam, Le Tissier (Ostenstad, 55), Oakley, Benali, Davies, Richardson (Slater, 63), Hirst. Substitutes not used: Dryden, Hughes, Moss (gk).

Referee: M D Reed (Birmingham).

Bookings: Southampton: Palmer.

Man of the match: Le Tissier.

Attendance: 12,009.