Holdsworth back to haunt Dons

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The Independent Online

Twice in a week Wimbledon had faced the team in second place in the First Division. At Birmingham last Saturday they romped to a 3-0 win for their seventh away success - the best record in the country - but at home they are a different side altogether.

Twice in a week Wimbledon had faced the team in second place in the First Division. At Birmingham last Saturday they romped to a 3-0 win for their seventh away success - the best record in the country - but at home they are a different side altogether.

One win all season at a cold, unwelcoming Selhurst Park tells a wretchedly contrasting tale and in front of only 6,076 spectators they suffered the further indignity of losing to a goal from old boy Dean Holds-worth, a half-time substitute.

Scrappy win or not, it was Bolton's fifth in six games, stretching their lead ahead of third-placed West Bromwich Albion and providing further evidence, if any was needed, of the resilience of a club twice relegated from the Premiership and controversially beaten in last season's play-offs.

Teams react to demotion in different ways. Some maintain a strong squad to contend real-istically for an immediate return; but even with the benefit of the so-called "parachute" television payments, others lose players, fans and confidence in roughly equal proportion. Wimbledon always looked likely to fall into the second category, given little luck with injuries to important figures like Robbie Earle and Kenny Cunningham.

Bolton are up there again, despite losing two of their large Nordic contingent, Eidur Gudjohnsen and Claus Jensen, to Chelsea and Charlton in the summer, then having to accept Charlton's cheque for £700,000 for the disenchanted Mark Fish. His replacement, Colin Hendry, on a three-month loan from Coventry, made a steady debut, understandably ring-rusty after five weeks without a game but impressing his manager, Sam Allardyce, sufficiently to stay on throughout.

The Dane Carsten Fred-gaard was not so lucky. Having seen little of the ball out on the wing, he looked understandably miffed at being asked to clock off with less than half an hour played as Allardyce sent on his leading scorer, Michael Ricketts, to give closer support to Ian Marshall, another craggy veteran. By half-time Marshall had a niggling thigh injury and a more significant change was made, Holdsworth coming on.

Before that, Kelvin Davis in the home goal had been threatened only once, having to make a fine stop low to his left as Kevin Nolan's shot was deflected heavily. Jason Euell spurned the Dons' best chance by jabbing nervously wide of a virtually open goal after the goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen had blocked Damien Francis' effort from equally close in.

But the keepers remained largely unemployed. Hendry came through a predictably rumbustuous duel with John Hartson, who had few chances to take advantage of any rustiness, putting a rare one over the bar lunging at full stretch for Neal Ardley's free-kick.

Mark Williams could not finish off two promising crosses from the left and it was rather a surprise when Bolton came up with a goal in the 77th min-ute. Ricardo Gardner and Paul Warhurst sent Nolan away for a shot that Davis parried only to Holdsworth, who finished with the sort of flourish -- low and hard - Wimbledon fans remember from happier days.

Allardyce summed up well: "We didn't play the way we can but if you've got goalscorers in your side, you can nick one. We go back home very happy."

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