Football: Oldham undone by Holdsworth: Wimbledon rise up the Premiership - Delight for Tranmere - Luton's nerves show - Motherwell shock Scottish champions

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Wimbledon. . . . .3

Oldham Athletic. .0

WIMBLEDON would appear to have exchanged their party pooper's hat for that of the executioner. Having had some fun and games at the expense of the championship contenders, Blackburn and Manchester United, in recent weeks they brought the axe down on Swindon last Saturday and then, last night, a Dean Holdsworth hat-trick dealt Oldham a possibly fatal blow.

This Saturday it is the turn of Spurs to put their head on the Selhurst Park chopping block before Everton have the dubious pleasure of receiving the Premiership's form team on the last day of the season.

Holdsworth's first League treble for the Dons, rattled home in the space of 23 minutes, lifted his side to sixth, equal to their best ever finish in 1986-87. Rest assured they will want to go at least one better.

A crippling run-in of five games in 11 days, starting with this one, will surely militate against the efforts of Joe Royle's team to cheat the hangman this time. This was their fourth successive League defeat. Royle's survival target of 45 points looks a tall order for a team who ship goals as readily as Oldham do.

A change of goalkeeper - Paul Gerrard for Jon Hallworth - did nothing to stem the tide and, in fact, last season's England Under-21 choice could be held responsible for the second goal. In contrast, Neil Sullivan, making his first start in 18 months in place of the injured Hans Segers was a virtual bystander throughout the second half.

Oldham's defensive frailties surfaced moments before Wimbledon opened the scoring after 32 minutes when Chris Makin was required to clear off his goal-line from Peter Fear.

The goal owed much to Holdsworth's balletic qualities though the Oldham manager cannot have been happy with the way he was allowed by Steve Redmond to pirouette before sweeping the ball home.

It stemmed from a Warren Barton corner and three minutes after the interval Wimbledon repeated this avenue of attack with similar success. Robbie Earle nodded the ball back into the box and Holdsworth, twisting in the air, sent a header into the unguarded goal with Gerrard conspicuous by his absence.

It repeated his feat of last season when he scored a brace in both League fixtures against the Lancashire club and after 55 minutes he went one better still as the opposition's defence again failed lamentably. The run by Andy Clarke, a second- half substitute for John Fashanu, spread panic through their ranks and as Makin and Craig Fleming left it to one another to make the challenge Holdsworth strode on cool as you please to complete his hat- trick with his 22nd League and Cup goal of the season.

Joe Kinnear, the Wimbledon manager, said afterwards: 'There was a lot of confidence and panache in our side. If we can get a few players in during the summer, who knows what we might achieve? I feel bullish about our prospects. Sam Hammam has fallen in love with this team and for once he wants to keep it.'

Wimbledon: (4-4-2): Sullivan; Barton, Scales, Blackwell, Elkins; Fear, Jones, Earle, Gayle; Holdsworth, Fashanu (Clarke, h-t). Substitutes not used: Perry, Segers (gk).

Oldham Athletic: (4-4-2): Gerrard; Fleming, Jobson (Beckford, 59), Redmond, Makin; Henry, Milligan, Brennan (Halle, h-t), Holden; Sharp, McCarthy. Substitutes not used: Halle, Hallworth (gk).

Referee: R Milford (Brstol).

(Photograph omitted)

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