Football: In-touch Earle makes his point
Wimbledon 1 Blackburn Rovers 1 Earle 76 Sutton pen 47 Half- time: 0-0 Attendance: 12,526
Sunday 01 November 1998
In the final 15 minutes, from the moment Wimbledon sneaked a justified equaliser, maximum points might have gone either way. The draw was fair but both clubs will be dissatisfied. It leaves Blackburn too near the wrong end of the table, while Wimbledon have now gone five league matches without a win.
The neater football came from Blackburn but the play more appropriate to the surface belonged to Wimbledon. While one attempted to play precise, quick passes the other realised this might not be the way to benefit. Wimbledon launched assaults by moving the ball swiftly down the flanks - from distance if necessary - and thumping over crosses. The Blackburn defenders must have lived in fear of deflections and ricochets as the pitch moved from slippery to mud-churned.
From early in the contest it seemed Wimbledon might be destined to be denied. In the seventh minute Jason Euell headed narrowly wide from Kenny Cunningham's low cross and soon after Robbie Earle did likewise from Neil Ardley's corner, though he reduced the size of the gap between woodwork and ball.
Blackburn were being well served by Tim Sherwood in midfield and while Chris Sutton and Kevin Davies ran their socks off at the front it was clear the former is a man in form and the latter is not. Davies cost pounds 7 million from Southampton in the summer and has yet to score. The signing this week of Nathan Blake - after Dion Dublin turned them down - might put Davies under further pressure. But his manager, Roy Hodgson, said later: "I'm worried for him, not about him. There is a difference in those prepositions." It occurred, not for the first time, there may be a difference between Hodgson and other managers as well, since not many others muse on fine grammatical distinctions in protecting their players.
Wimbledon finished the first half the more ebullient and might have spent the interval wondering why they had not scored. Naturally, it was Blackburn who did so within 15 seconds of the resumption. Damien Johnson, having made his way rapidly into the Wimbledon area was tumbled over by Ben Thatcher. Penalty, signalled the referee to Wimbledon protests. The referee was persuaded to consult a linesman but stuck to his decision. Tackling is hard to judge in such conditions but referees must still apply the law. Chris Sutton's shot from the spot went hard to Neil Sullivan's left.
This was not the signal for Wimbledon to give up. They continued their policy of winning corner upon corner but Blackburn kept scrambling away. When Michael Hughes's 25-yard volley was beaten out by Tim Flowers the task seemed beyond them. But Alan Kimble, one of a mass of substitutes, put in a curving corner from the left. Marcus Gayle produced a glancing header and Robbie Earle claimed the touch which took the ball over the line.
Blake shot narrowly wide for Blackburn after a sharp turn, Sherwood had a shot cleared off the line, Euell's injury-time volley crashed against a bar. They might have wanted more but neither team had cause for complaint. Joe Kinnear, the Wimbledon manager, confirmed later he had completed the signing of Gareth Ainsworth from Port Vale for an initial pounds 1 million. It is heartening to know the Crazy Gang continues to attract members.
Latest in Sport
Crystal Palace manager latest: Malky Mackay ruled out due to messy departure from previous club Cardiff
Sami Khedira to Arsenal: Midfield omitted from Real Madrid squad for Spanish Super Cup
Paul Scholes: Manchester United need five experienced players who can turn round a desperate situation
Angel Di Maria latest: Manchester United target is Real Madrid's 'best player', says Diego Simeone
Luis Nani exit: The curious case of the Manchester United winger
- 1 Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
- 2 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 3 World peace? These are the only 11 countries in the world that are actually free from conflict
- 4 Nicki Minaj 'Anaconda': Singer finally releases predictable video
- 5 James Foley 'beheading': Met police warn public watching murder video could be criminal offence
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Scottish Independence Referendum: Salmond described as 'arrogant, ambitious and dishonest' by Scottish women
£30000 - £37000 per annum + attractive benefits: Ashdown Group: .NET Developer...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...
£300 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: An experienced Digital/Ecommerc...
£30000 - £35000 Per Annum + 25 days holiday and bonus: Clearwater People Solut...