Football: Earle fuels cup double dream

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The Independent Online
Wimbledon 2 Queen's Park Rangers 1

Robbie Earle claimed his 150th senior goal to leave Wimbledon, on Saturday evening at least, as FA Cup favourites for the first time in their history. But their manager, Joe Kinnear, said: "The price is too short for me."

Earle's second-half stunner sealed Wimbledon's 2-1 win over QPR and had Ladbrokes cutting their price for Wembley glory from 5-1 to 5-2 favourites.

The midfielder, so close to an England call-up last week after being placed on stand-by by Glenn Hoddle, still had plenty to do when he picked up Oyvind Leonhardsen's pass just outside the box.

The jink inside Karl Ready was exquisite, and Earle followed that up with something even better, as he curled an absolute beauty into the top corner. But, asked if he was ready to put some of his own hard-earned cash on his side winning the cup for the second time in their history, Kinnear shook his head.

"I won't put any money on," Kinnear said. "Why should I? I missed the boat earlier in the season. I think we were 100-1 at one stage and even if we weren't we were 66-1. I missed that. There's no point now.

Wimbledon are 6-1 to complete the cup double. The first leg of their Coca-Cola Cup semi-final is at Leicester tomorrow.

Their hopes looked dim when Mark Hateley headed Rangers in front in the 42nd minute. But Marcus Gayle, whose goals have put out the holders of both cups this season, levelled before the interval and Earle sealed it 10 minutes into the second half.

"It was a tremendous finish from Robbie and shows why I think he's somewhere near the England set-up," Kinnear said.

"He's a model professional. He's the reason why we're still in because of the goal he got at Manchester United to earn us a replay and he came up with a crucial one today."

Goals: Hateley (41) 0-1; Gayle (44) 1-1; Earle (55) 2-1.

Wimbledon Sullivan; Cunningham, Kimble, Jones, Blackwell, Leonhardsen (McAllister, 84), Earle, Ekoku, Holdsworth (Goodman, 45), Gayle, Perry. Substitute not used: Harford.

Queen's Park Rangers Sommer, Yates, Brevett, (Dichio, 80), Barker, McDonald, Ready, Spencer, Peacock, Hateley, Murray, Sinclair. Substitutes not used: Graham, Roberts.

Referee: J T Winter (Stockton-On-Tees).

Man of the match: Earle.

Attendance: 22,395.