Football: Wimbledon revitalised

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The Independent Online
Wimbledon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

Sheffield United. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

IT MAY be a little premature to be talking in terms of relegation scraps, but yesterday's encounter between Wimbledon and their Old Boys' team, thinly disguised as Sheffield United, provided a prelude to the inevitable battles for survival which lie ahead.

It is never wise to write off either of these revivalist sides, but after four successive League victories, Wimbledon's future is beginning to look the safer of the two. United have now lost 12 of their 15 away games, and this year's regeneration might have to be their most miraculous yet.

No one had ever pretended that this fixture was going to be one of the highlights of the sporting calendar, and as sure as night follows day it was as bland an offering as Premier League football can serve up.

There were, however, some tasty verbal exchanges on offer in the run-up to the game. Dave Bassett returned to the club which he had managed so successfully in the 1980s declaring that the likes of Wimbledon with their derisory gates should be removed from the top flight. With typical Donnish good humour, the chairman Sam Hammam, in an open letter in the match programme, rebuked Bassett for his disloyalty, promising that by way of retribution the 'Crazy Gang' would 'stuff his side out of sight'.

Nor did a stuffing look entirely out of the question when in only the second minute John Fashanu put the Dons ahead with what turned out to be the high spot of the day. Hans Segers' long free- kick found Gary Elkins wide on the left. His pass to Gerald Dobbs on the edge of the area was turned back to Fashanu, who curled the ball into the top right corner from 25 yards out.

Wimbledon exerted most of the pressure in the first half, and might have done better with a handful of chances before Dobbs sealed victory two minutes before the interval.

The goal was a classic - a Wimbledon classic that involved a throw deep into the box, a frenzy of flying boots, piled bodies and a ball that squirmed over that thin line.

Wimbledon: H Segers; R Joseph, G Elkins, V Jones, J Scales, B McAllister, N Ardley, R Earle, J Fashanu, D Holdsworth, G Dobbs. Subs not used: S Cotterill, D Blackwell, N Sullivan (gk). Manager: J Kinnear.

Sheffield United: A Kelly; M Ward, T Cowan, J Gannon, B Gayle, P Beesley (G Hodges, 59 min), F Carr (A Cork, 59 min), P Rogers, J Hoyland, B Deane, A Littlejohn. Sub not used: P Kite (gk). Manager: D Bassett.

Referee: R Hart (Darlington).

Goals: Fashanu (1-0, 2 min); Dobbs (2-0, 43 min).