Arsenal. . . .2
THREE goals in the last 10 minutes brought this simmering match nicely to the boil. In the heat of those closing moments Arsenal's mini-revival evaporated and Wimbledon rose to their first win of the season.
There was little to hint at such an exciting finale in the opening exchanges. Both sides looked jaded after their midweek outings and the game moved fitfully.
The home side made the best of the early play. In the first minute Dean Holdsworth rounded off a well-worked move with a crisp turn and volley that flew just wide of Seaman's post. Arsenal, penned for long spells in their own half, were often indebted to the commanding figure of Tony Adams. Only his tackle in the 17th minute prevented Robbie Earle from touching home John Fashanu's knock-down.
Arsenal showed an uncharacteristic haste in their rare attacks. When Holdsworth fired a dangerous drive just across the face of Seaman's goal it seemed that the deadlock must soon be broken. It was - at the other end.
In what was almost Arsenal's first concerted move Ray Parlour found Kevin Campbell deep in the Wimbledon box. As Segers advanced to meet him Campbell played the ball across the goal and, with the defence looking on, Wright had time to steady himself and stab the ball home.
The goal lifted Arsenal but, before they could capitalise, Wimbledon had snatched a deserved equaliser in the 38th minute when Seaman, under pressure from Earle, punched ineffectually at Warren Barton's cross. The ball fell invitingly to Lawrie Sanchez who drilled it into the net.
Wimbledon finished the half stronger, Gibson testing Seaman with a long-range shot and John Jensen limping badly. The Dane, who had acquitted himself well in the hurly-burly of his first Wimbledon match, struggled out for the second half but was immediately replaced by David O'Leary.
Wimbledon have certainly lost none of their physical edge. Wright endured a punishing afternoon, ending it with a strapped wrist, and it was for a scything tackle on the Arsenal player that Sanchez was booked. Wright threatened to seek revenge in kind just after the hour, when Parlour's foul on Andy Clarke provoked confrontations all over the pitch. Perhaps Brian McAllister and Dean Blackwell, the Wimbledon centre-backs, were preventing Wright from getting involved but from the stands if looked as if they were trying to throttle him. O'Leary managed to calm that particular flashpoint and the referee saw fit to book only Parlour.
Although Arsenal were by now playing considerably better, too often their approach play ended with under-powered shots.
With 10 minutes to play, Adams, who was nursing a head wound, was replaced by Alan Smith. Wimbledon took advantage, Fashanu beating first the offside trap and then the exposed Seaman.
Wright, although by George Graham's estimate only 75 per cent fit, equalised in the next attack when Hans Segers missed Nigel Winterburn's cross from the left and he was on hand to nod it home.
Before Arsenal could consolidate they were behind again when Earle crashed home Fashanu's pass to secure the points. Wimbledon may keep on selling but they keep on surviving, too.
Wimbledon: H Segers; T Gibson, B McAllister, (N Ardley, 66 min), W Barton, D Blackwell, S Fitzgerald, D Holdsworth, R Earle, J Fashanu, L Sanchez, A Clarke (S Anthrobus, 90 min). Sub not used: N Sullivan (gk). Manager: J Kinnear.
Arsenal: D Seaman; L Dixon, N Winterburn, C Pates, S Bould, T Adams (A Smith, 80 min), J Jensen (D O'Leary, 46 min), I Wright, K Campbell, P Merson, R Parlour. Sub not used: A Miller (gk). Manager: G Graham.
Referee: K Burge (Tonypandy).
Goals: Wright (0-1, 36m); Sanchez (1-1, 40m); Fashanu (2-1, 81m); Wright (2-2, 83m); Earle (3-2, 86m).