Football: Fantasy Dons

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The Independent Online
Sunderland 1

Melville 83

Wimbledon 3

Ekoku 8, 29, Holdsworth 89

Attendance: 19,672

Wimbledon moved to second place in the Premiership with a victory that stretched their remarkable unbeaten run to 18 matches.

Two first-half goals by Efan Ekoku and a third in injury time from the substitute Dean Holdsworth crushed Sunderland's spirited resistance at Roker Park as Joe Kinnear's team moved above Newcastle and Liverpool and behind leaders Arsenal.

The unfancied south London side showed that they are a formidable force with a superb counter-attacking display that brought a fully deserved win.

The home side looked full of running in the opening exchanges, obviously buoyed by last week's 3-1 win at Everton, and Richard Ord was only inches away from converting Martin Smith's inswinging free-kick.

But Wimbledon drew first blood in the eighth minute when Dean Blackwell challenged Lionel Perez and the French goalkeeper's weak punch was headed back into the danger zone by Robbie Earle for Ekoku to loop home a header from eight yards.

It was the Nigerian international's seventh goal of the season and in the 29th minute he became the club's leading scorer with his eighth of the season.

He swapped passes with Marcus Gayle and was fortunate to see the ball roll into his path off the heel of Andy Melville, but he took full advantage and beat Perez with a crashing drive from 16 yards.

Peter Reid, the Sunderland manager, reacted immediately when Wimbledon continued to dominate proceedings after the break, sending on the young striker Michael Bridges for the ineffective David Kelly after 51 minutes.

And the home side almost reduced the deficit when Smith's inswinging corner from the right was met by a forceful Ord header that Neil Sullivan palmed away spectacularly.

Reid's decision to substitute Alex Rae, the most effective Sunderland player, 10 minutes from time, brought jeers from the 19,672 crowd but Sunderland were back in contention seven minutes from time. Not surprisingly, Smith was the provider with an inswinging corner that Melville leapt high to power home with a header. But in the dying seconds Ekoku released Holdsworth to curl home a brilliant shot high past Perez from 20 yards for his third goal of the season.

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