Football: Ekoku keeps it up

Middlesbrough 1 Fleming 23 Wimbledon 2 Earle 12, Ekoku 64 Attendance: 29,192
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The Independent Online
WHILE Wimbledon secured their place in the Premiership for next season, Middlesbrough's play suggested they had turned up for a pre-season friendly.

The Dons needed little of their customary doggedness to overcome Middlesbrough's defence, which spent most of the afternoon cat-napping in the spring sunshine. The visitors did pick up four bookings in the last 20 minutes as they ensured their points, but the only physical incident was when Vinny Jones broke up a heated disagreement between Wimbledon's Neil Ardley and Dean Holdsworth.

Jones was also involved in Wimbledon's opening goal. In the 12th minute, he popped up on the left and shot over a low cross which Robbie Earle bundled unchallenged into the net.

At least it served to stir Middlesbrough, even if the Republic of Ireland's Alan Moore was overshadowing the Brazilian Juninho. The equaliser came when Nick Barmby delightfully cushioned a header into Graham Kavanagh's path. He slipped the ball wide to Curtis Fleming who cut inside and scored his first goal in 151 appearances.

In the second half, Middlesbrough seemed more interested in thinking about which international superstars their manager will buy to replace them. In the 55th minute, Earle was so surprised at running past five defenders without any opposition that he blasted from close range straight at the Middlesbrough goalkeeper, Alan Miller.

Efan Ekoku showed him how to do it seven minutes later. Steve Vickers ran away from goal with his appealing arm up, while Phil Whelan laboured after the Nigerian striker who nipped in and sealed his club's future.

"Right from the start we were sluggish, we weren't switched on and we weren't anticipating," said Bryan Robson, who added that he was still looking "for a couple of quality players". For Joe Kinnear, it's a different story. "I've got one or two to trade in and I'll bring in two or three from the lower leagues and we'll start again next season ready to prove everybody wrong."

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