WHILE OTHER Premiership clubs were playing, some even winning, in European competition last week, Wimbledon and Sheffield Wednesday were losing to lower-league teams in the Worthington Cup.
Small beer in comparison, perhaps, but their managers' respective reactions revealed much about the teams' prospects for the season. Danny Wilson criticised some of his "fancy-dan" footballers after a home-defeat to Cambridge United and dropped Paulo Di Canio, while Joe Kinnear shrugged his shoulders and got on with it.
By the end of Saturday afternoon, Wimbledon were in fourth place while Wednesday in the bottom eight.
Against Cambridge Wednesday conceded the only goal of the game after three minutes; on Saturday Wimbledon took the lead after just 50 seconds. In the equivalent fixture last season, Jason Euell scored in a 1-1 draw; this time he scored twice.
"He's a younger version of Robbie Earle," said Kinnear of Euell. The Wimbledon captain and Jamaican international is indeed a fine role model and had another excellent game.
"We are fighters," Kinnear remarked. "But if we can add a bit of class and finesse to it, we can only get better."
Wednesday's Benito Carbone certainly has this finesse, but he lacks Wimbledon's spirit. On more than one occasion, a solid challenge left him curled on the turf in the foetus position.
By the start of the second half, it was a case of desperate Dan changing his mind as Wilson reflected that it might be a good idea to play Di Canio after all. The Italian looked sharp and came close almost immediately as he nicked the ball from Alan Kimble inside the area and shot over.
However, Wimbledon scored again on 50 minutes after a long pass was flicked on first by Carl Leaburn, then Marcus Gayle, before Euell shot home left- footed.
With six minutes remaining, Di Canio proved a point with a no-nonsense finish. Wilson was asked afterwards if his team were outclassed. "Outclassed?" he retorted, eyes bright with indignation. "I thought we were outfought at times, not outclassed."
Perceptions are slow to change in football, but to acknowledge in public that your team had just been outclassed by Wimbledon is not yet the done thing.
Goals: Euell (1) 1-0; Euell (50) 2-0; Di Canio (84) 2-1.
Wimbledon (4-4-2) Sullivan; Kimble, Thatcher, Perry, Cunningham; Roberts, Earle (Jupp, 90), Hughes, Euell; Leaburn (Cort, 90), Gayle (Ekoku, 72). Substitutes not used: Heald (gk), Kennedy.
Sheffield Wednesday (5-3-2) Pressman; Hinchcliffe, Walker, Newsome, Atherton, Thome; Jonk, Briscoe (Magilton, 79), Quinn (Di Canio, h-t); Booth, Carbone. Substitutes not used: Clarke (gk), Oakes, Barrett.
Referee: N Barry (Scunthorpe).
Man of the match: Euell.
Attendance: 13,163.Reuse content