Football: Newcastle suffer under burden of high expectations: Dashing Dons

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The Independent Online
Wimbledon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4

Newcastle United. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

EXPECTATIONS could not be more different for these two contrasting clubs. Behind Newcastle is a whole city aching for success, a longing that brings intrusive pressure on those chosen to realise their dreams. Wimbledon, whose match- day gates can sink to figures the Geordies expect for training, suffer no such anguish over inflated demands.

While the Crazy Gang relax, Newcastle, under a manager who shares Tyneside's ambitions, appear momentarily incapable of coping with their sudden ascendancy. Three losses in succession for a newly promoted team placed fourth in the Premiership is hardly a crisis, but the strain on the players has been ignored. Keegan and the club's passionate support cannot countenance consolidation: the desire is for immediate trophies and European places.

Clearly there is no need to panic - merely a requirement to modify short-term targets within the realms of realism. Without Paul Bracewell and Andy Cole, Newcastle lacked their usual polish and finish and could be forgiven the occasional listless performance like this amid the beauty they so often produce.

But what they really miss is the sort of bossing, clenched-fist character who proliferates at Wimbledon. While only a fool would watch Vinnie Jones rather than Lee Clark, a touch of the senior skinhead's bouncer tendency would not go amiss. Jones's nuisance factor led to the Dons' opening goals. His distracting presence forced Mike Hooper to punch rather than gather Gary Elkins' inswinging corner; a delighted Robbie Earle headed the ball back past the Newcastle keeper.

Jones again played his part in securing possession to set up the Dons' second. Scott Sellars was gliding along the left until Jones hassled him into a rash clearance: Warren Barton, who along with the outstanding John Scales must have impressed the watching Terry Venables, picked up the pieces and floated over a cross for Gary Blissett to head forcefully in.

Newcastle's back four appears impressive when listed individually or seen on the ball, but collectively they fail to inspire confidence. Against Wimbledon's three-pronged attack, they were continually found wanting. But at least with the Magpies there is always Peter Beardsley to watch and the darting striker struck the first of his two penalties after Jones had impeded Beresford.

Wimbledon, with a composure and commitment which could endanger Manchester United's treble chance next Sunday, simply accelerated away with fine goals for John Fashanu, another header after Hooper had stayed rooted to his line, and Holdsworth, who looks every inch a top-class centre-forward. 'What's it like to be outclassed?' the home fans enquired.

Beardsley's second spot-kick, which perverted the score, should not have been allowed as Scott Fitzgerald, penalised for handling, chested the ball outside the box. No matter. The delirious Dons carried on chanting 'Bring on United'.

Goals: Earle (9) 1-0; Blissett (26) 2-0; Beardsley (50) 2-1; Fashanu (55) 3-1; Holdsworth (63) 4-1; Beardsley (90) 4-2.

Wimbledon (4-3-3): Segers; Barton, Fitzgerald, Scales, Elkins; Fear, Earle, Jones; Fashanu (Clarke, 75), Holdsworth, Blissett. Substitutes not used: Blackwell, Sullivan (gk).

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Hooper; Watson, Venison, Howey, Beresford; Fox, Clark, Elliott, Sellars; Lee (Mathie, 70), Beardsley. Substitutes not used: Robinson, Srnicek (gk).

Referee: J Lloyd (Wrexham).

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