Football: Wimbledon profit from Ekoku double

Wimbledon 4 Portsmouth 1 aet; score at 90min 2-1; agg 5-3
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The Independent Online
PORTSMOUTH WENT to Wimbledon last night hoping to indulge in a spot of giant-killing but eventually ended up beaten as the home side's big men - spearheaded by Efan Ekoku - put their side into the third round of the Worthington Cup.

Wimbledon went into this second round, second leg with a one-goal deficit having lost 2-1 at Fratton Park last week. They were taken to extra time last night by a tenacious Pompey side, who had held the scoreline to 2- 1 at 90 minutes, but in the end they ran out comfortable winners, with Carl Leaburn and Ekoku scoring with headers to secure the victory.

"If we'd been more comfortable in front of goal we could have come away with a win tonight," Alan Ball, Portsmouth's manager, said. As it was it was the home side who dominated both in confidence and in physical presence. The Dons took charge of the opening 15 minutes, with their aerial superiority provided by their three lanky front men, one or more of Leaburn, Cort and Ekoku always in a dangerous position.

Portsmouth soaked up the pressure to take the lead in the 19th minute after a well-worked corner. Sammy Igoe played a deft one-two with Alan McLoughlin and then lofted the ball into the box. Pompey's captain, Adrian Whitbread, was on hand to sidefoot into the net.

Six minutes later the home side pulled a goal back. After being awarded a free-kick 25 yards from the visitors goal, Ekoku tapped the ball to Neal Ardley and the midfielder's fierce shot gave the goalkeeper no chance.

After 55 minutes, the Dons breached Portsmouth's defence again. Russell Perrett mis-headed the ball while trying to clear the visitors' line, Ekoku nipped in and stole it, and sidestepped Aaron Flahaven and scored.

The remainder of the regular 90 minutes was played out in fairly chaotic style with Wimbledon continuing to bombard the Portsmouth box and only some fine saves by Flahaven preventing the visitors from being eliminated during normal time.

Portsmouth fans, possibly forming a slight majority in a pitiful 3,756 crowd were nearly treated to a goal by Martin Phillips eight minutes into extra time, but his effort shook the bar and bounced away. Five minutes later a Wimbledon corner was directed home by Leaburn and midway through the second half of the extra period, Ekoku ensured a 4-1 win on the night and 5-3 aggregate victory by heading in after meeting a cross from Alan Kimble.

Wimbledon (4-3-3): Heald; Jupp (Kimble, h-t), Cunningham, Perry, Thatcher; Ardley, Francis (Roberts, 63), Kennedy; Leaburn, Cort (Euell, h-t), Ekoku. Substitutes not used: Sullivan, Gayle.

Portsmouth (5-3-2): Flahavan; Thorgersen, Whitbread, Perrett, Awford, Simpson (Phillips, 65); McLoughlin, Igoe, Peron; Aloisi, Claridge. Substitutes not used: Knight, Durnin, Soley, Kyzeridis.

Referee: M Riley (Leeds).