Football: Wounded Arsenal surrender to Earle

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Wimbledon. .3

Arsenal. . .2

ANY encounter with Wimbledon is likely to be a bruising occasion, and this was certainly no exception. Arsenal seemed to have come prepared, leaving the fastidious Anders Limpar out of the side and strengthening the midfield with Colin Pates in the absence of the suspended David Hillier. Nevertheless they ended the afternoon rather the worse for wear: with the poorer share of five goals and the larger ration of a great many knocks and gashes.

John Jensen struggled off just after the interval, Ian Wright, who gave as good as he got, collected a damaged wrist and Tony Adams was withdrawn 10 minutes from time to have a head wound stitched.

His departure was perhaps the game's turning point. It was Adams's bravery that had been instrumental in holding Wimbledon during a first half when they threatened to overpower their weary-looking visitors. Thanks to him Arsenal were able to go in on level terms, having snatched an improbable lead with a rare attack before surrendering it to an equally rare Lawrie Sanchez strike.

In the second half they asserted a steadily increasing control, but with Adams's substitution the game unexpectedly blew up in their face and swept Wimbledon to a first win of the season.

George Graham thought 'the goals we gave away were very un- Arsenal'. But John Fashanu's 80th-minute strike seemed the very image of an 'Arsenal goal'. The defensive line rooted in expectation of an offside flag while the opposing forward ran through to beat the abandoned goalkeeper.

Equally characteristic, however, was Arsenal's prompt reply, not least because it was headed home by Wright - his second goal of the game, his fourth of the season. Graham still insists that Wright is only '75 per cent fit', and argues, with the casuistry of a club manager (and a Scotsman), that while Arsenal can take a risk with him, it would be unreasonable to expect England to do so.

The Gunners must have thought they had salvaged a draw. Wimbledon, however, were determined to impress their largest crowd of the season, although - or perhaps because - most of them were Arsenal supporters. The impressive Robbie Earle duly silenced the travelling fans with his last-gasp winner from the edge of the box.

Goals: Wright (36) 0-1; Sanchez (40) 1-1; Fashanu (81) 2-1; Wright (83) 2-2; Earle (86) 3-2.

Wimbledon: Segers; Gibson, McAllister, (Ardley, 66), Barton, Blackwell, Fitzgerald, Holdsworth, Earle, Fashanu, Sanchez, Clarke (Anthrobus, 90). Substitute not used: Sullivan (gk).

Arsenal: Seaman; Dixon, Winterburn, Pates, Bould, Adams (Smith, 80), Jensen (O'Leary, 46), Wright, Campbell, Merson, Parlour. Substitute not used: Miller (gk).

Referee: K Burge (Tonypandy).

Ian Wright, the Arsenal striker, has been reported to the police for an alleged offensive gesture aimed at Wimbledon supporters at Selhurst Park on Saturday. A Scotland Yard spokesman said: 'We have received a complaint about an Arsenal player allegedly making an offensive gesture. South Norwood police have been informed and a decision will be made by a senior officer on whether action will be taken.'