Football: Fashanu punishes profligates

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The Independent Online
Wimbledon. . . .2

Aston Villa. . .2

NOT that you would know it from the way the Premiership's two portliest managers waddled to and from the dugouts, but Ron Atkinson's chequebook is fatter than Joe Kinnear's. But it is one thing to have money, another to use it wisely. Wimbledon cannot afford to sign million-pound strikers, let alone leave them on the bench, but the prodigious Guy Whittingham sat out a game in which the prodigal Dalian Atkinson missed three good chances that should have sealed a good win.

As Whittingham limbered up for his Villa debut with the scoreboard jammed on 1-1, his teammates finally twigged, regaining the lead in the 82nd minute when Paul McGrath got the faintest of touches to a low corner from Steve Staunton. That should have been it but Wimbledon know there's nothing like a corner to get you out of a corner, and no sooner had Whittingham resumed his seat than John Fashanu leapt up to loop home an Alan Kimble corner with five minutes left.

The match had woken up in the fifth minute when a linesman appeared to stay asleep. A parried shot from Dean Holdsworth came through to Fashanu, who looked so offside that it must have been aggoraphobia that prompted him to fluff the simple chance. Villa were grateful for the lapse and found their groove, fashioning a well-made goal for Kevin Richardson in which Wimbledon's doughty defence was split down the middle. Ray Houghton's pass set up his captain, who turned on his right foot and shot low with his left.

It should have been the first of many but the rest of the half found Hans Segers in gymnastic mood and after the interval Atkinson squandered a series of inviting opportunities. Last season, even last week, they would have been 'Goal Of The Month' contenders but Froggatt then Richardson laid the ball on a platter to no avail.

Through sheer force of personality Wimbledon pulled back before half time when Villa failed to clear and Holdsworth met Robbie Earle's hooked cross at the near post. This got the slimline crowd going, but a drive from Roger Joseph was to be their best effort until Holdsworth tucked a chance just wide late in the second half.

When McGrath produced his apparently invaluable tap-in, Wimbledon had to climb the mountain all over again. But then nobody does it better. Fashanu now has three goals in three games. You can already hear the clamour for an England recall.

Wimbledon (4-4-2): H Segers; R Joseph, D Blackwell, J Scales, A Kimble; W Barton, L Sanchez, R Earle, A Clarke (G Dobbs 66 min); J Fashanu, D Holdsworth. Subs not used: S Tallboys, P Digweed (gk). Manager: J Kinnear.

Aston Villa (4-4-2): N Spink; E Barrett, S Teale, P McGrath, S Staunton; R Houghton, K Richardson, G Cowans, S Froggatt; D Saunders, D Atkinson. Subs not used: N Cox, G Whittingham, M Bosnich (gk). Manager: R Atkinson.

Referee: J Borrett (Great Yarmouth).

Goals: Richardson (0-1, 17 min); Holdsworth (1-1, 39 min); McGrath (1-2, 82 min); Fashanu (2-2, 85 min).

(Photograph omitted)