Watford capitalise on Heald's dismissal

Watford 3 Wimbledon 0
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The Independent Football

It was about this time last year that Gianluca Vialli was unexpectedly sacked as the manager of Chelsea. He can rest easy for the moment though, because this victory ­ Watford's biggest of the season which maintained their 100 per-cent home record and moved them up to ninth ­ was a comfortable one, even though it took the dismissal of Wimbledon's goalkeeper to send Vialli's men on their way.

What had been an uneventful game burst into life five minutes before half-time as Marcus Gayle chased another long ball pumped towards him by his team-mates. However, it reaped an unlikely reward as Paul Heald raced out to collect and in so doing ran out of his penalty area without releasing the ball. A moment's hesitation by the Cumbrian official, Mike Pike, only delayed the inevitable red card and the visitors were left chasing the game for the next 50 minutes.

Both managers agreed it was harsh ­ Vialli thinking it was only worth a yellow card while Terry Burton said: "Those decisions change the course of the game."

Thereafter the only Sunday evening roast on view was Wimbledon's defence as, with only seconds remaining before the interval, Watford took the lead. The Hornets had earlier survived a scare when Andy Roberts missed an inviting header six yards out, but then Gary Fisken released Tommy Smith.

The young striker sensibly waited for support to arrive rather than achieve any solo heroics. Once at the byline, he found Nordin Wooter, who had timed his run to perfection and then sidefooted his volley past the substitute goalkeeper Ian Feuer.

Wooter had just as crucial a part to play as Watford doubled their lead three minutes into the second half. With the rain giving the surface a slippery sheen, the flying Dutchman was suddenly causing all manner of problems. He found himself unmarked down the right flank and, as the Wimbledon defence tracked back, his chipped pass was met by Marcus Gayle, who, from eight yards out, made no mistake against his former team.

Then four minutes later it was all over bar the shouting of the Wimbledon fans, who, with their black balloons and paper placards, had come as much to continue their protest about their chairman Charles Koppel as to support their increasingly beleaguered team. Chasing a lost cause and a loose ball in the penalty box, the full-back Paul Robinson was on the end of a rebound to make it three goals in seven minutes.

Perversely, it was then that Wimbledon replied with their best efforts of the match. However, to emphasise this was not their night, Kevin Cooper saw his well-placed shot rebound away off a post as the Dons ran out of heart in Hertfordshire.

Goals: Wooter (45) 1-0; Gayle (48) 2-0; Robinson (52) 3-0.

Watford (4-4-2): Baardsen; Robinson, Galli, Vega, Cox; Glass (Helguson, 80), Fisken (Noble, 72), Hyde, Wooter; Smith, Gayle (Noel-Williams, 69) Substitutes not used: Chamberlain (gk), Ward.

Wimbledon (4-4-2): Heald; Kimble (Darlington, 63), Gier, Willmott, Holloway; Cooper, Ardley, Roberts, McAnuff (Feuer, gk, 40); Shipperley, Connolly. Substitutes not used: Anderson, Agyemang, Leigertwood.

Referee: M Pike (Cumbria).

Sending off: Wimbledon: Heald.

Man of the match: Wooter.

Attendance: 15,466.

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