Wimbledon. . .2
THE south-coast sunshine must agree with Steve Cotterill. Last week he was on loan at Brighton, scoring the Seagulls' winner against Wigan. Brighton wanted to buy him but could not afford the fee so Cotterill returned to Wimbledon, yesterday plugging the gap left by the injured Dean Holdsworth, and duly reminded his employers of what they nearly let go with two second-half goals.
Cotterill's memorable return for a long time looked like doing the trick for Wimbledon in a game which had about as much shape as a favourite old sweater. The crowd's passionate clamour for more from the tuneful half-time band was a pointed observation on the quality of the first period.
The second half, though, began with unexpected activity. Scarcely had Iain Dowie tried to lift the Dell's despair with a long shot which smashed against the bar, than Cotterill popped up to plant a free header past Tim Flowers for the game's first goal.
The Saints' manager, Ian Branfoot, responded by surprisingly withdrawing Dowie's young partner, Paul Moody. It proved to be a master stroke. Francis Benali knocked in a hopeful cross from the left, Glenn Cockerill managed an air shot which Ian Wright himself could not have bettered, and Dowie ran in the loose ball.
The equaliser had the man from the Ocean FM radio station fishing for nuggets. When Dowie scores, he ventured, Southampton do not lose. Cotterill tried to disprove him. In the 69th minute Vinny Jones's long throw was flicked on the near post and Flowers made such a bloomer of Robbie Earle's gentle volley that Cotterill could have scored with his eyes closed.
Dowie, though, had a reputation to uphold. With five minutes left he helped Jason Dodd's long pass into the path of Perry Groves, and the former Arsenal striker showed his class by netting a fine shot from 20 yards.
Southampton: T Flowers; J Dodd, F Benali (N Maddison, 79 min), T Hurlock, K Monkou, S Woods, P Groves, G Cockerill, P Moody (L Powell, 58 min), I Dowie, M Adams. Sub not used: I Andrews (gk). Manager: I Branfoot.
Wimbledon: N Sullivan; W Barton, R Joseph, V Jones, A McCleary, S Fitzgerald, P Miller, R Earle, J Fashanu, S Cotterill, A Clarke. Subs not used: L Sanchez, G Elkins, H Segers (gk). Manager: J Kinnear.
Referee: K Barratt (London).
Goals: Cotterill (0-1, 51 min); Dowie (1-1, 59 min); Cotterill (1-2, 69 min); Groves (2-2, 85 min).