Football: Nielsen seals Graham's return journey to Leeds

Tottenham Hotspur 3 Wimbledon 0
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The Independent Online
AFTER THREE unresolved bore-wars in a fortnight, the Tottenham manager, George Graham, had suggested it might take "luck, a set-piece or a mistake" to decide who visited his old friends, Leeds, in the fifth round of the FA Cup. He underestimated Andy Sinton, the stand-in for David Ginola, whose scorching early strike set Spurs on their way to Elland Road.

Wimbledon, badly depleted, could not respond this time, and Allan Nielsen's two second-half goals - products of the mistake and the luck - left them hoping for the still-considerable consolation of a victory in the Worthington Cup semi-final, second leg in two weeks' time.

That will be the teams' fifth encounter in as many weeks and last night the visiting supporters chanted: "If you're sick of playing Tottenham, clap your hands." The feeling was mutual despite the result, for only 24,049 had turned out, compared to almost 36,000 for last week's goalless draw.

Ginola's hamstring strain, sustained in that tie, kept him out, but Wimbledon were without six first-choice players - two from each department of the side - in Kenny Cunningham, Ben Thatcher, Michael Hughes, Marcus Gayle, Efan Ekoku and the ineligible John Hartson. Their attack was a blunt instrument, even after Carl Cort appeared for the second half, and Robbie Earle was prevented from making his driving runs from midfield by the solid new partnership of Steffen Freund and Allan Nielsen.

Spurs have never lost at home to a London side in the Cup and optimism was enhanced by a goal within three minutes. Following an assured lay- off by Les Ferdinand, who had an outstanding game, Nielsen found Sinton, who cut in from the left to dispatch a shot into the far corner of the net that Glenn Hoddle would have been pleased with. Those whose minds had been on events at the Royal Lancaster Hotel might have recalled a glorious Hoddle goal in the first-ever FA Cup tie between the clubs, at Plough Lane 12 years ago.

If the touch of a Hoddle, or a Ginola, would have been welcome, Spurs went on to control the game, with few anxious moments. Neil Ardley's free- kick on the hour was the only shot Ian Walker was required to save all evening.

After striding to the touchline - to chants of "Ginola" - and telling Mark Kennedy to switch flanks with Ardley, Wimbledon's manager, Joe Kinnear brought on Cort for a defender, Duncan Jupp, at half-time, a move undermined by a second goal before it could take any effect. Ferdinand again muscled through on the right as Chris Perry slipped, and had abundant time and space to note Nielsen's supporting run and slip him the ball for a tap- in.

Nielsen's second goal, six minutes from time, was a bizarre effort, the ball rebounding off him with such force from Jason Euell's attempted clearance that Neil Sullivan had no chance of keeping it out.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Walker; Carr, Vega, Campbell, Edinburgh; Anderton (Taricco, 87), Nielsen, Freund (Young, 89), Sinton; Iversen, Ferdinand (Armstrong, 87). Substitutes not used: Dominguez, Baardsen (gk).

Wimbledon (4-4-2): Sullivan; Jupp (Cort, h-t), Perry, Blackwell, Kimble; Ardley, Roberts (C Hughes, 80), Earle, Kennedy; Leaburn, Euell. Substitutes not used: Castledine, Hodges, Heald (gk).

Referee: D Gallagher (Banbury).