Football: Dons win respect

Sheffield Wednesday 1 Pembridge 14 Wimbledon 1 M Hughes 21 At tendance: 22,655
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The Independent Online
FOR a mid-table match, it was perhaps appropriate that an embarrassing moment apiece ensured neither could claim victory although Wimbledon, shorn of nine first-team players, undoubtedly won a moral one.

Andy Hinchcliffe, making his debut for Wednesday, was responsible for one of those moments, but, on the credit side for the pounds 3 million man, he did create the other. In the 14th minute, his near-post cross from the left towards Andy Booth caused panic in the Dons' defence. Peter Fear tried to hoof clear but hit Mark Pembridge's shin. As the ball bounced into the net, the Welshman sheepishly held his hand up to acknowledge Fear's embarrassment.

Seven minutes later, though, the boot was on the other foot as Hinchcliffe hung his head in shame after horribly slicing a high clearance. The ball flew over his own bar for Wimbledon's first corner. Booth headed the kick on to Michael Hughes' chest and he volleyed from the edge of the area past Kevin Pressman.

For the rest of the first half, Wednesday's pleasant but ineffectual passing failed to threaten Wimbledon, whose raiding parties looked more likely to draw blood. With Hughes always first out of the trenches, they lobbed incendiary bombs towards Carl Leaburn and Jason Euell and looked to pick up the pieces when they exploded.

Yet, after the break, the game drifted into stalemate with defences swapping high clearances. Four Wednesday corners on the hour lifted the home side, particularly when Leaburn's blushes were spared when his defensive header hit his own crossbar.

The same piece of wood twice denied Booth's powerful volleys in the final 10 minutes, although the Dons' goalkeeper, Neil Sullivan, who needed eight stitches at half-time in his jaw, had a hand in keeping both of them out, in the process saving the moral high ground for his manager, Joe Kinnear.