Football: Dons remain defiant

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The Independent Online
Wimbledon 0

Derby County 0

Attendance: 13,031

BOTH sides can plead that, because of injuries and suspensions, they were well under- strength. But it is an excuse that won't wear. As far as goalless draws go, this was in the most forgettable class. It wasn't just goals that were lacking, it was anything approaching the inventive or entertaining as well.

Derby had to field a midfield of the young and untried, while the Dons left the debutant striker Carl Leaburn on his own with only occasional support from Marcus Gayle.

The visitors were a shade more vigorous in attack with Francesco Baiano especially dangerous in the opening moments. Twice in the first 15 minutes the Italian almost got the goal the game so desperately needed when he sent a chip just wide of a post and then had Neil Sullivan sprawling to get down to his 25-yard volley.

Michael Hughes was undeterred by the lethargy that seemed to settle on most of his Wimbledon colleagues and his crisply struck shot in the 63rd minute, after a clever nod down by Leaburn, forced Mart Poom into the best save of the afternoon. Ten minutes later, the Estonian international goalkeeper was furious with his fellow defenders when Neal Ardley's ambitious pass was allowed to reach Leaburn, but the former Charlton striker swept the chance high over the bar.

The nearest either side got to a goal came four minutes from time, when one of Wimbledon's interminable long balls created a scramble in the Derby box. The ball ricocheted off several bodies and crept past Poom towards the net, but Ron Willems scampered back just in time to scrape it off the line.

The Derby manager, Jim Smith, seemed quite content to have taken four points from two difficult games with depleted resources. But he must feel that this was two points lost as, certainly in the first half, Derby had the chances to put the result beyond any doubt.