Football: Dons' defence wary of Ndlovu

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KENNY CUNNINGHAM, the Wimbledon captain, yesterday gave warning that Birmingham City, the First Division high fliers, will prove a handful in their Worthington Cup third-round tie at St Andrews tonight.

Cunningham watched Birmingham beat Queen's Park Rangers 1-0 at Loftus Road on Sunday and was impressed. "Birmingham are a very tough side," said Cunningham, who knows his side's defence will need to be on form against Peter Ndlovu and Dele Adebola.

"They have a very solid 4-4-2 formation and Ndlovu and Adebola are looking very good up front," Cunningham added. "Without a doubt it's going to be a very difficult task. They're second in the First Division - on equal points with Sunderland - and we all know how good a side Sunderland are."

Efan Ekoku, who is troubled by a hamstring injury, has been given a 50- 50 chance of facing Birmingham. Michael Hughes has been suffering from a groin problem all season but the club is willing to let him fix a date for a remedial operation.

Birmingham, unbeaten in their last six games, have a doubt over their midfielder Martin O'Connor, who is struggling with a knee injury, and Chris Holland is on stand-by.

Trevor Francis, the Birmingham manager, said: "I won't have any worries about putting Chris in, even against a team as good as Wimbledon." Gary Ablett, the captain, will also be hoping for a recall after starting the last two games on the bench. Francis may well consider that his greater experience could well be crucial against Wimbledon.

City's central defender, Darren Purse, is looking forward to the chance to test himself against Premiership opposition in a match that is likely to give a good indication of Birmingham's long-term promotion aspirations. The England Under-21 international said: "I am relishing the match and Wimbledon's style of play will suit me down to the ground."