Football: Wimbledon fight an uphill battle

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The Independent Online
Wimbledon. . . . 2

Leicester City. .1

IT WAS more surprising to see Wimbledon start with 11 men than finish with 10. Another of the old guard had gone, more are due to follow; the Crazy Gang were arguing among themselves, and a whiff of mutiny was in the air. We wondered whether they had a team to put out when up popped Vinnie Jones brandishing fists to remind us that nothing had changed.

Dismissed 35 minutes into his first game as captain, Jones had a drink afterwards with Graham Poll, as did Warren Barton, one of six to be booked. It made the point that, along with both managers, neither player thought the official was incorrect with his card-waving.

Vinnie the violent had to walk for swapping punches with David Lowe as push came to shove and then worse in the penalty area. 'I wore my heart on my sleeve today and it got us the result we needed,' Jones said somewhat illogically. He will be fined by Joe Kinnear and reminded that when Wimbledon talk about scrapping their way out of another crisis they mean with their heads and not their hands.

Brian Carey, the third player to see red, was less fortunate, but these days the law does not differentiate between a bad tackle and one that is only badly mistimed. If the effect is to send the other player tumbling, as happened to Dean Holdsworth on two occasions, then off you must go.

Jones will remain as the Wimbledon skipper because, frankly, they have run out of candidates. Holdsworth has reaffirmed his desire to leave and his performance underlined why Kinnear is right to restrain his ambition, even though Mick Harford was the more productive in securing a first win for his 10th club. He scored the equaliser and set up the winner with a low cross.

Kinnear joked that it is fortunate Harford has no pace or he would be forced to sell him for pounds 5m. As other managers were showing off their new pounds 3m-plus purchases, he had to delve deep to find pounds 200,000 for Alan Reeves, a centre-back from Rochdale who, with his shock of blond hair, at least looks the part of John Scales' replacement.

Leicester, meanwhile, bear the look of boys cast adrift in a man's world; Jim Willis' own goal was the worst example of rank defending that, even at this early stage, promises to leave only three relegation places to be fought for.

Goals: Lowe (26) 0-1; Harford (29) 1-1; Willis og (45) 2-1.

Wimbledon (4-4-2): Segers; Barton, Fitzgerald, Reeves, Kimble; Ardley, Jones, Elkins (Fear, 78), Gayle; Harford, Holdsworth (Clarke, 90). Substitute not used: Sullivan (gk).

Leicester (4-4-2): Poole; Grayson, Willis, Carey, Lewis (Agnew, 61); Carr (Joachim, 73), Draper, Blake, Philpott; Roberts, Lowe. Substitute not used: Ward (gk).

Referee: G Poll (Tilehurst).