Football: Ricard braces Wimbledon for hard times

Wimbledon 2 Middlesbrough 3

WIMBLEDON STAYED up last season thanks to an early burst of form that meant they were safe from relegation for virtually half the campaign, a run that gained extra significance as they barely earned any points as the season neared its conclusion. However, on the strength of this feeble defeat against a lively but rarely inspired Middlesbrough, they will need to quickly rediscover that early-season zest, or else they will be struggling in the relegation zone far too early for their comfort.

Wimbledon's opening day win against Watford had already exposed a creaking door at the back that was ripped off its hinges in this game by goals from Hamilton Ricard and Christian Ziege, and although John Hartson swivelled around his marker from eight yards out to score Wimbledon's second, it was a case too little, too late.

Middlesbrough can boast one of England's more celebrated recent international midfield partnerships, now that Paul Ince has joined forces with Paul Gascoigne, and it was Ince who was on hand to help set up his new team's first goal of the season. Trailing to Carl Cort's 17th-minute goal for the home side, Ince - who was making his debut after his pounds 1m summer signing from Liverpool - forced his way into the penalty area with 23 minutes on the clock, and passed to Ricard, the Colombian then guiding the ball on to Ziege. The German international, another of the Middlesbrough manager Bryan Robson's recent acquisitions, then wasted no time in slotting the ball inside Neil Sullivan's far post to equalise.

Gascoigne had made an energetic and promising start to the game, and it was the former international who showed some of his old charm as he curled in an inch-perfect free-kick to Brian Deane, only for the striker to head straight into Sullivan's arms.

Four minutes after Ziege's goal, the visitors took the lead. After a burst of pace down the right flank, Phil Stamp played a neat one-two with Deane, only to be upended by Alan Kimble, with the referee, Barry Knight - in charge of his first Premiership match - adjudging the foul inside the penalty area. And Ricard, who missed the last penalty he took - in the Copa America for his country - calmly forgot about that and tricked Sullivan into diving the wrong way.

Boro's burst of goals quickly made Wimbledon's opener seem a distant memory. On their first attack of the game, Kenny Cunningham floated a ball into Hartson and the Welsh striker calmly nodded a pass into Cort's path, who dispatched his low shot past Mark Schwarzer to give the Wimbledon manager, Egil Olsen, an encouraging start on his first home match in charge.

Ten minutes after the restart, Wimbledon came close to drawing level thanks to Olsen's primitive long-ball tactics, but when the opportunity came to Marcus Gayle, the Jamaican striker fluffed his lines. A long ball into the penalty area found Hartson, whose header down landed at Gayle's feet only 10 yards out, but he stabbed his effort wide of Schwarzer's goal. And, two minutes later, Gayle again found the goal begging after a swift counter-attack, but despite only having one defender to beat, he blazed his effort over from 18 yards out.

That pair of misses by Gayle looked even more costly with 63 minutes gone, when Ricard extended Middlesbrough's lead and scored his second of the night. It was Gascoigne, from inside his own half, who found Ricard, and the tall striker neatly confused two defenders and the goalkeeper by selling them dummies before driving his shot past Sullivan from 10 yards out to give Boro hope of forgetting their opening-day defeat by Bradford.

Wimbledon (4-4-2): Sullivan; Cunningham, Blackwell, Pedersen, Kimble (Thatcher, 62); Cort, Earle, A Roberts, Hughes (Euell, 68); Hartson, Gayle. Substitutes not used: Leaburn, Jupp, Davis.

Middlesbrough (3-5-2) Schwarzer; Festa, Vickers, Gordon; Stamp, Ince (Mustoe, 77), Gascoigne, Townsend, Ziege (O'Neill h/t); Ricard (Campbell, 89), Deane. Substitutes not used: Maddison, Roberts.

Referee: B Knight (Orpington).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Night job: Pacha nightclub DJ, Joan Ribas, is the new kingmaker on the island
news
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family
film'I survived it, but I’ll never be the same,' says Arash Amel
Life and Style
Retailers should make good any consumer goods problems that occur within two years
tech(and what to do if you receive it)
Life and Style
healthIf one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
Life and Style
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K YR1: SThree: At SThree, we like to be dif...

Guru Careers: Software Developer / Web Developer

£30 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Software / Web Developer (PHP / MYSQL) i...

Guru Careers: Account Executive

£18 - 20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: An Account Executive is needed to join one...

Guru Careers: Software Developer / Software Engineer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Software Developer / Software Engineer i...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada