Football: Roberts the spur as Dons ride their luck

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The Independent Online
Wimbledon 2

Euell 8, Roberts 83

Derby County 1

Wanchope 76

Half-time: 1-0 Attendance: 12,732

THIS VICTORY, secured five minutes from the end, can only offer Wimbledon confidence for their next three games, which are all against Tottenham. If they enjoy as much good fortune as in this match, they could pull off the hat-trick over George Graham's team.

Though Wimbledon were a goal up in only eight minutes it came against the run of play, which Derby dominated with fluent football lacking only one ingredient - the finishing touch. Derby manager Jim Smith felt it was his team's best away performance of the season. "We have just got to keep that kind of play going and next time they will go in," he insisted.

They certainly weren't going in yesterday, despite excellent build-up work in which Horacio Carbonari and Stefano Eranio created chances galore - for Dean Sturridge in particular. The return of Paulo Wanchope from suspension lifted Derby enormously and his skills had Wimbledon on the hop throughout.

But, as ever, the Dons stuck at it and came away with the points, thanks to an early strike from Jason Euell and a late one from Andy Roberts. It was an eventful match for Roberts, who also laid on Wimbledon's first. They are now unbeaten in 10 home games and, glory be, still on course for a place in Europe on three fronts, despite a formidable list of injuries and suspensions.

Derby should have been ahead in the seventh minute when Sturridge slipped Eranio free inside the area but the Italian's effort curled a foot wide. From the goal-kick Wimbledon won a throw-in on the left, Michael Hughes collected and fed Roberts, who was permitted two attempts to send Euell clear. When the second one succeeded, Euell side-footed an excellent goal from the same distance and angle.

Hughes, strangely using his left-footed skills mainly on the right side of midfield, might have made the game safe for Wimbledon two minutes after half-time. Carl Cort escaped his marker at the corner flag and sent over a looping cross but that feared left foot could managed no more than a half-paced prod which Mart Poom pouched comfortably.

Wanchope, whose control had for once deserted him when the goal was at his mercy, then applied a clinical finish to Carbonari's free-kick. It was certainly no more than Derby deserved. Instead, amid a flurry of late substitutions, they were punished again.

"When we got to 1-1 we seemed to ease off for five minutes and that cost us," said Smith. The punishment was inflicted by Roberts, whose low left- footer utterly beat Poom.

"We had to fight for our lives to get the rewards today," said Wimbledon manager Joe Kinnear. For Saturday's League game with Spurs he will have only one recognised striker, but don't write Wimbledon off, ever.