Gayle raises roof

Derby County 0 Wimbledon 2 Earle 49, Gayle 70 Attendance: 17,022
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The Independent Online
No more jokes about Wimbledon, please. After five consecutive wins, the self-proclaimed paupers of the Premiership are third in the table, and the choice of manager of the month for September is surely a formality.

Wimbledon's fortunes have been transformed in the space of 25 days - the three defeats which began their 11th season in the top division now emphatically dismissed as a false start. Their qualities are those that have always served them well: tireless hard work, unwavering commitment and a refusal to accept that their rightful place is anywhere but amongst the elite.

They hustled their way to victory here, nipping Derby's creativity in the bud by stifling their midfield. "Robbie Earle and I knew we'd done our job when both of their midfielders were substituted," Vinnie Jones said afterwards, referring to the effective shackling of Aljosa Asanovic and Darryl Powell.

Jones had gone into the match on a warning from Kinnear to blow away the red mist after his recent sending off against Tottenham signalled the resurfacing of bad habits. The message clearly made an impact judging by his refusal to rise to the bait whenIgor Stimac caught him in an early challenge.

As a spectacle the match was one to forget, although the goals were of good quality, raising the tone of an otherwise tuneless afternoon. Wimbledon did not manage a shot before half-time - against one by Derby - butmade their impact four minutes after the break.

Neil Ardley, displaying clever skills on the right-flank, left one defender for dead with a brilliant turn, then slipped past another before releasing the perfect low cross for Earle to score from close range.

Derby's response was less than electrifying and Wimbledon looked good for the points even without the cushion of a second. But it came anyway after 70 minutes when Marcus Gayle had the strength to hold off Stimac at the edge of the box and the technique to beat Russell Hoult with a splendid left-foot shot.