IT IS not often Wimbledon come up against a hungrier side but they did so last night and were ultimately devoured by the Wolves. Having been one down, and seemingly bound for defeat in this FA Cup fifth-round replay, Wolves scored twice in the last half hour to earn a quarter-final tie at Leeds United and end Wimbledon's dream of a 10th anniversary return to Wembley.
In an added irony Wolves' winning goal was straight out of Wimbledon's style guide: a long clearance by the goalkeeper, picked up by a forward who ran at the defence with only shooting on his mind.
The goalscorer was Dougie Freedman but it was Mike Stowell, the goalkeeper, who was Wolves' key player making a series of excellent saves when Wimbledon threatened to overwhelm them.
The Premiership side had taken the lead after 48 minutes through Vinnie Jones, the only remaining member of the team that won the 1988 final. Jones the hero became Jones the villain 15 minutes later as he played Carl Robinson onside, allowing the midfielder to head in an equaliser from a Mark Atkins cross.
"We shot ourselves in the foot," Joe Kinnear, the Wimbledon manager, said. "We made basic mistakes in defence and missed chances in attack. We were cruising at one up. If we'd scored a second we'd have won comfortably."
Wolves' manager, Mark McGhee, said: "Our goalkeeper had a very, very good night. Not many people would expect us to beat Leeds but we can. The League remains the priority - we will not risk players in the Cup who might then miss a League game, but the competitions can go hand in hand."
Wolves had begun the brighter with Freedman and Mixu Paatelainen going close inside the first half hour. Wimbledon should have gone ahead when Peter Fear released Jason Ewell only for the striker to drag his shot wide.
Wimbledon now exerted themselves, forcing Stowell into a series of saves. Two fierce volleys by Jones and Michael Hughes were routine but he reacted brilliantly to deny near-post headers from Chris Perry and Marcus Gayle.
Both attempts had come from Neil Ardley corners and it was no surprise when Jones met another corner early in the second period to score his first goal for a year and two days.
However, the Londoners retreated into defence and, invited Wolves on to them. After Keane had gone close Robinson finally stirred the crowd.
At last a game and atmosphere resembled a cup tie and both sides went close Gayle shooting wide from eight yards at one end and Freedman going close at the other.
Extra time was looming when Stowell, under pressure from Peter Fear, thumped a long clearance. It fell to Freedman who beat Perry before lashing a drive across Neil Sullivan and in from an acute angle.
Wolverhampton Wanderers (4-3-3) Stowell; Atkins, Richards, Curle, Naylor; Robinson, Osborn, Sedgley (Simpson 38); Freedman (Bull, 90), Keane (Williams, 87), Paatelainen. Substitutes not used: Murray (gk), Muscat.
Wimbledon (4-4-2): Sullivan; Jupp (Castledine 40), Blackwell, Perry, Thatcher; Ardley, Jones, Fear, Hughes; Euell (Cort, 89), Gayle. Substitutes not used: Heald (gk), Reeves, Clarke.
Referee: U Rennie (Sheffield).Reuse content