Football: Clarke spurs on the Dons

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Wimbledon 2

Holdsworth 58, Clark 63

Tottenham Hotspur 1

Sheringham pen 72

Attendance: 20,875

TOTTENHAM may yet be re- recording that old football classic along the lines of 'Ossie's Going to Endsleigh'. A late rally in the Selhurst Park sunshine yesterday failed to earn enough to secure their Premiership place and the dark clouds will gather again on Thursday when they go to Oldham.

Only belatedly did they spring into life, a cautious approach having undermined them, along with a fumbling performance by their goalkeeper Erik Thorstvedt, to the tune of two goals. Wimbledon were more eager to fight for fifth place than were Spurs for their future. They have now taken 23 points from their last nine, unbeaten, games.

They have always had scant regard for other teams' reputations - next Saturday they can relegate Everton - and even less for Tottenham's. The fancy dans of north London have ever touched a nerve with the functional Dons, southern hardies that they are, producing a series of X-rated encounters, culminating in the one that saw the disfiguring of Gary Mabbutt at White Hart Lane by John Fashanu in November.

Yesterday, though, and with Fashanu out injured, they took pleasure in demonstrating the game's finer aspects. High- minded aspirations Tottenham may have, but their problem comes from a reluctance to employ a less glamorous side.

'A few teams in trouble, including Tottenham, have come here and look like they think they are in mid-table,' Vinnie Jones explained. 'We were unable to impose our style - that was the main thing,' Ossie Ardiles, the Spurs manager, said.

The brave Mabbutt, Tottenham's soul, again sought to galvanise them from the heart of the defence in a team that owed more to the Terry Venables era than that of Ardiles, his six signings again left out of the starting line-up, but there was little of substance elsewhere. The watching Venables was more likely to be assessing some Wimbledon players for England.

Had Tottenham scored early on when Darren Anderton's volley was kicked off the line by John Scales, matters might have been different. But Wimbledon do not dwell on ifs. In a messy first half they came close when Marcus Gayle's snap half-volley drew a fingertip save from Thorstvedt and the goalkeeper also saved at the feet of Andy Clarke.

The lead Wimbledon deserved came when Tottenham failed to clear adequately Warren Barton's corner and Dean Holdsworth at the far post volleyed home his 23rd goal of the season. Five minutes later Holdsworth flicked on to Peter Fear, who found Clarke in the wasteland that was Spurs' defence and he sidefooted home.

The Tottenham flourish was fuelled by a dubious penalty converted by Teddy Sheringham after Ronny Rosenthal had fallen as Scales closed in. Sheringham glanced a header wide and, in the last minute, Rosenthal lobbed over, but a point would have flattered.

(Photograph omitted)