Fotoball: Fashanu clears route one

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The Independent Online
Wimbledon . . . . . . . . . .2

Barton 49, Holdsworth 67

Sheffield United. . . . . . .0

Attendance: 6,728

IT HAS been a good week for Wimbledon, with victory over Liverpool in the Coca-Cola Cup and yesterday their second successive league win. This is a team whose ambition to be among those that matter in the top half of the table is not so far-fetched.

Quite what this says about the rest of the Premiership is something the purists would rather not think about. But are Wimbledon interested in the purists' opinion?

As a matter of fact, they are. Joe Kinnear, the Wimbledon manager, longs for his team to get a bit of praise, and with this performance they perhaps deserve some.

Certainly Wimbledon have unearthed a midfield player worth watching in the skilful Neil Ardley, an England Under-21 international, and there were times late on, with the game well won, when they put aside the battering ram to create openings with precision. But for the most part, route one was still the only one.

That usually involves John Fashanu, and it will not have been lost on Kinnear that his centre-forward had a crucial role in both his side's goals. If Fashanu was preoccupied with this week's Football Association inquiry into his clash with Gary Mabbutt, he certainly was not showing it.

After an even first half of forgettable football, Wimbledon took the lead in the 49th minute, when Fashanu, backing towards the Sheffield goal in characteristic fashion, found himself up against Jonas Wirmola, United's central defender.

That there was fouling going on was not in doubt; it was identifying the culprit that was the problem. The referee came down on Fashanu's side and from the free-kick, some 25 yards out, Warren Barton benefited from a deflection off the wall as his shot flew into Alan Kelly's top right-hand corner.

With United now committing more men forward, the gaps started opening up in their defence. On 66 minutes Dean Holdsworth clipped the bar after good work by Ardley, and within a minute he had found the target for the goal that settled it, picking the ball up after Fashanu had won another contest with Wirmola, and sliding it under Kelly.

Gerald Dobbs should have made it 3-0 three minutes from the end when he had a clear run on goal from the halfway line, but Kelly blocked his shot.

What of Sheffield United? 'Inept,' was how their manager Dave Bassett accurately described his team, and once again they have left themselves with a lot to do to avoid relegation.

'We're playing as if we're not sure who's going to score,' Bassett said. That seemed to be going through Carl Bradshaw's mind when he made a mess of a straightforward chance towards the end. You cannot afford to do that against a team who may be lacking in some things, but conviction is not one of them.

(Photograph omitted)