Football: Dean the Don floors Villa

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The Independent Online
Aston Villa. .0

Wimbledon. . .1

Holdsworth 77

Attendance: 17,940

ASTON VILLA'S season has ground to a halt. The runners- up in 1992-93 now have only two points to show from their last five matches, and if their football during that spell has often been better than their results, they certainly could not say that of yesterday's performance - a real stinker against the team who have the knack of bringing opponents down to their level, and then punishing them for it.

Villa thus dropped a place to seventh in the Premiership just when they needed to be building some momentum going into a tough sequence of games which will see them take on Manchester United, Norwich, Blackburn and Leeds in the next three weeks.

Although the conditions were appalling - a ferocious wind got up midway through the first half and the rain fell in torrents - that was no excuse for a game full of messy and mundane football, in which the linesmen's flags were never down for long. Ron Atkinson, the Villa manager, said he thought it was one of the better meetings he had seen between the two sides, which does not say much for the others.

Normally one of the Premiership's most creative sides, Villa never really got going in midfield, where the absence of Andy Townsend and Kevin Richardson, both injured, was all too noticeable. Atkinson again preferred his German left winger, Stefan Beinlich, to Tony Daley, but Beinlich's reluctance to get round the back of defenders limited Villa's attacking options.

What few chances they engineered were largely the work of Dean Saunders and Ray Houghton. Early on Saunders himself had a shot on the turn well saved by Hans Segers, and then it was his cross that Dalian Atkinson might have done better with from the edge of the six-yard box.

Unable to force meaningful openings close to goal, Villa were left to try from long range. Saunders, Neil Cox and Gordon Cowans all went close, but from 30 yards they could not expect to do much better. The arrival of Guy Whittingham at the start of the second half, in place of the injured Atkinson, brought some life to the Villa attack, and the hard-working forward even got the ball into the net in the 70th minute, but he was penalised for a push.

The danger from Wimbledon was sporadic, although they had scored two disallowed goals themselves before coming up with the winner 13 minutes from time. It was an untidy effort even by their standards, but Dean Holdsworth, who forced the ball in after a spot of head tennis in Villa's six-yard box, will not have bothered about that.