Football: Kinnear forced to lower his sights

Wimbledon 0 Blackburn Rovers 1
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The Independent Online
Wimbledon 0 Blackburn Rovers 1

It was inevitable that, after scoring the only goal of the game, calls for Chris Sutton's inclusion in England's future plans would be renewed, but if Glenn Hoddle had been unfortunate enough to sit through the entire 90 minutes at Selhurst Park on Saturday he would not have been particularly moved.

If ever a game needed something, even a booking, to liven it up, this was it.

Sutton took his goal well enough, although there is always an element of luck attached to shots from acute angles that go through a goalkeeper's legs. But that was only six minutes into the game, and as a spectacle thereafter this was about as entertaining as a poke in the eye, perhaps less so.

Blackburn drew pretty patterns in midfield, from where Lars Bohinen occasionally threatened with some intricate dribbling and Tim Sherwood linked intelligently with his forwards. But their shooting was hurried and woeful and Sutton was as guilty as Kevin Gallacher, Garry Flitcroft and others in this respect.

Wimbledon, for their part, relied as ever on the pace and power of their two central strikers, fed by crosses from the wing-backs Kimble and Cunningham, while Vinnie Jones struggled manfully to make up for the absence of Robbie Earle's forward thrusts from midfield.

Blackburn's defence was resolute, Colin Hendry and Stephane Henchoz coping admirably even when faced by all four of Wimbledon's big target men in tandem in the last 20 minutes. But what both sides lacked, from the spectator's point of view at least, was width.

Blackburn had omitted Jason Wilcox, sent off last weekend, while Stuart Ripley remains unfit; and Wimbledon's latest acquisition, Michael Hughes, has not so far been given licence to raid down the flank as he used to do to good effect for West Ham.

After three draws and a defeat in their previous four games, Blackburn will be happy enough to have rediscovered the winning touch and as their manager Roy Hodgson rightly pointed out, this time last year they were third from bottom instead of third from top.

As for Wimbledon, fresh blood is needed. Joe Kinnear has never been afraid to chop and change, and perhaps now there are one or two who have struggled against adversity for too long.

"We will survive, I'm certain of that," Kinnear said with endearingly premature pessimism. "But whether we can reach the heights of last season I am not so sure."

Goal: Sutton (6) 0-1.

Wimbledon (4-4-2): Sullivan; Cunningham, Perry, Blackwell, Kimble; Ardley (Gayle, 70), Jones, C Hughes, M Hughes (Euell, 70); Cort, Ekoku. Substitutes not used: Thatcher, McAllister, Heald (gk).

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Flowers; Kenna, Hendry, Henchoz, Croft; Flitcroft, McKinlay, Bohinen, Sherwood; Gallacher, Sutton. Substitutes not used: T Pedersen, Dahlin, Wilcox, Duff, Fettis (gk).

Referee: D Gallagher (Banbury).

Man of the match: Hendry.

Attendance: 15,600.

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