Football: Guppy's gem adds the gloss

Wimbledon 0 Leicester City 1 Guppy 6 Half-time: 0-1 Attendance: 11,801
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A GOAL of rare quality from Steve Guppy stood out in stark contrast to the rest of this scrappy, subdued and mediocre game and, in truth, the Leicester midfielder's 25-yard, arrow-like strike after six minutes was more than this match deserved.

Not that the visitors, who have slipped near the relegation zone in recent weeks, will be complaining about their first Premiership win since Boxing Day. After all, they were only equal partners in a contest that saw Wimbledon continue their own dismal form. The Dons have not even scored at home in the League in two months and their own dreams of qualifying for Europe have suffered a further setback. After elimination from the semi-finals of the Worthington Cup, their hopes of reaching the Uefa Cup via a decent League placing also look implausible.

However, the Wimbledon coach, David Kemp, put this result, from Wimbledon's viewpoint, in context. On Wednesday, their manager, Joe Kinnear, suffered a heart attack before the game at Sheffield Wednesday and has been in hospital in Yorkshire since, leaving Kemp and Mick Harford to assume temporary control. Kemp said: "What has happened has been a major incident in the club's history. It puts football results in their proper perspective."

Wimbledon won in midweek, their only victory in their last 12 League and cup games, but Kemp hinted that the players have only just felt the full knock-on effect of Kinnear's condition, saying: "Maybe the seriousness of his illness settled on the players in the last couple of days."

There had been reports that Kinnear had selected the team for this fixture, which Kemp denied as he emphasised that Kinnear has had total rest for the past four days, and he only half joked when he said: "I hope Joe was asleep for this game. We weren't bright enough and it was the last thing we needed to go behind after six minutes."

Some of the pre-match build-up had also focused on the Leicester striker Tony Cottee, who needs one more goal to register 200 in the League, but it was the less celebrated Guppy who struck home with an effort that Cottee would have been proud of. The midfielder, who latched on to Neil Sullivan's sliced clearance and dispatched his shot into the top corner, later called it the best of his career.

Sullivan was more alert 10 minutes later as his team-mates again conceded possession, giving Ian Marshall the time to pass to Cottee, who saw his low shot from the edge of the box turned around the post.

Yet a virtually full-strength Wimbledon, who even started with record pounds 7.5m signing John Hartson on the bench, rarely threatened Leicester, and only had Michael Hughes' free-kick over the crossbar to shout about in the first half. But even after that attempt, Wimbledon failed to raise their game against the Worthington Cup finalists, who started without their injured striker Emile Heskey. When they did put the ball in the net, through Jason Euell after 55 minutes, the effort was ruled out for offside. And, barring a Hughes free-kick two minutes after the interval, that was the only time Wimbledon threatened substitute goalkeeper Pegguy Arphexad, who replaced the injured Kasey Keller at half-time. Guppy later praised the three centre-backs for keeping the ineffective Wimbledon front- line at bay, calling them "mountains".

And it was one of that triumvirate, Steve Walsh, who so nearly put the result beyond doubt after 63 minutes. From a Muzzy Izzet corner, Matt Elliott flicked on and Walsh thumped his header against the crossbar.

By this stage, however, Wimbledon were in such disarray that they started hitting their corners out of play and the appearance of Hartson, his first after a four-game suspension, made little impact.