Francis strike steadies Wimbledon

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The Independent Online

Terry Burton has backed his injury-hit Wimbledon squad to continue improving after their win at Barnsley yesterday.

Terry Burton has backed his injury-hit Wimbledon squad to continue improving after their win at Barnsley yesterday.

A Damien Francis volley two minutes from time earned Burton's mid-table side all three points at Oakwell, and the Dons' manager said: "We've been a bit topsy-turvy lately but it was an improved performance. I was happy that we kept another clean sheet."

Wimbledon's resources have been stretched of late and Burton is looking forward to a time when he has a full squad to choose from.

His Barnsley counterpart Dave Bassett was pleased with his side's display despite the defeat: "I am genuinely pleased with a lot of what they have done today. We played well today and we had some great chances. They didn't deserve that, the players. I'm more disappointed for them."

Both sides could have wrapped up the victory long before Francis struck but were guilty of missing several clear chances. Barnsley began the match the brighter with some flowing passing moves but could not capitalise on their opportunities.

As early as the 10th minute Robert Gier brought down Lee Jones on the edge of the area and was booked. Neil Maddison, on loan from Middlesbrough, put the resulting free-kick high over the Dons' bar.

Wimbledon had their fair share of chances, with John Hartson and Marcus Gayle both missing when well placed. Gayle headed off target from a Trond Andersen cross while Hartson had an effort saved by the legs of Kevin Miller.

Towards the end of the half Hartson missed another opportunity when he could not connect with a Gayle cross, while in injury time Mike Sheron had a shot beaten out by the goalkeeper Kelvin Davis.

The second half began as brightly with Maddison shooting inches wide. He then hit the bar when it looked easier to score after a Mateo Corbo drive had been deflected into his path. Dean Blackwell and Par Karlsson replaced Gier and Jonathan Hunt for Wimbledon at the break but neither had an immediate impact.

Some good work on the right by Hartson deserved better from Francis, who ballooned the ball over. The pendulum then swung Barnsley's way and it looked certain Corbo would give the home side the lead but his shot was cleared off the line by Mark Williams.

Then, just as it looked as though the game was heading for a goalless draw, Francis popped up with the winner thanks to a firmly-hit volley from 15 yards.

Goal: Francis (89) 0-1.

Barnsley: Miller; Regan (Moses, 35), Ward, Jones, Sheron, Van der Laan, Morgan, Barker, Corbo (Neil, 78), Chettle, Maddison (Thomas, 70). Substitutes not used: Walker, O'Callaghan.

Wimbledon: Davis; Kimble, Roberts, Hartson (Agyemang, 89), Gayle, Andersen, Williams, Francis, Gier (Blackwell, 45), Hunt (Karlsson, 45), Harley. Substitutes not used: Selley, Heald (gk).

Referee: P Dowd (Stoke-on-Trent).

Booking: Wimbledon: Gier.

Man of the match: Francis.

Attendance: 13,641.

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