Football: Elliott is left free to grab a point
Leicester City 1 Wimbledon 1
Monday 28 September 1998
Wimbledon, the perennial relegation favourites, will still enter October lying third, but their performance was more in keeping with a side striving to insure against the drop rather than one aspiring to a European place. As the more enterprising of two modest outfits, Leicester fully deserved to take only their second point in five matches.
It was billed as Sky's "Super Sunday" game, but "superfluous" or "stupefying" often seemed more appropriate adjectives until the final exchange of goals. Even the one moment of controversy, when the referee awarded nothing more than a free-kick against Kasey Keller after the Leicester keeper handled the ball outside the penalty box, was something of a storm in a satellite dish.
Keller was clearly out of his area when he gathered a long through-ball which was being half-heartedly chased down by Marcus Gayle. Using his common sense, Alan Wilkie deemed it no more than an error of judgement. The referees' officer of the Premier League, Philip Don, took a different view.
Don, who called upon managers to stop criticising officials last week, chose the half-time interval in the comfort of the outside broadcast studio to do exactly that himself. "In that situation there's no room for interpretation," he said. "Once the free-kick is given, he has to go. It's a clear denial of an obvious scoring opportunity."
By the strict letter of the law, Don may have been right. By any sensible standards, he was talking rubbish. What is more, there would probably have been a riot had Mr Wilkie banished Keller.
In truth, there were precious few scoring opportunities, obvious or otherwise. Elliott, having abandoned defensive duties in search of a winner, volleyed against the bar in the 74th minute, yet within 60 seconds Earle peeled off his marker to convert Alan Kimble's free-kick for his second goal of the season.
There were only three minutes left when Wimbledon, defending too deep, allowed Gerry Taggart to charge unopposed up their right flank. When his cross swung in, Elliott - "a big bugger when he goes up front," the Wimbledon manager Joe Kinnear said eloquently - was mystifyingly free to score via Neil Sullivan's outstretched hand and a post.
Goals: Earle (75) 0-1; Elliott (87) 1-1.
Leicester City (4-4-2): Keller; Sinclair, Elliott, Taggart, Ullathorne (Kaamark, 71); Savage, Lennon, Izzet, Guppy; Heskey, Cottee (Wilson, 77). Substitutes not used: Parker, Zagorakis, Arphexad (gk).
Wimbledon (4-4-2): Sullivan; Cunningham, Perry, Thatcher, Kimble; Euell, Roberts, Earle, Hughes; Ekoku (Cort, 50), Gayle. Substitutes not used: Ardley, Kennedy, Francis, Heald (gk).
Referee: A Wilkie (Chester-le-Street).
Bookings: Wimbledon: Gayle, Kimble.
Man of the match: Sinclair.
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