Holdsworth enhances appeal with winner

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Dean Holdsworth responded to criticism from the Wimbledon manager, Joe Kinnear, with his 13th goal of the season to eliminate Middlesbrough on Tuesday night and set up Saturday's fifth-round FA Cup tie at Huddersfield Town.

If Holdsworth, rated at pounds 4m by his club, can continue to rediscover his scoring touch after a six-match barren patch, Kinnear will not so much be carpeting the player as rolling out the red stuff.

"I told Deano he needed to do a bit more, especially with so much competition for forward places," Kinnear said. "He did nothing against Sheffield Wednesday last week when I took him off. I reminded him he needed to sharpen up a bit."

Fortunately, Holdsworth reacted positively. His 73rd-minute goal means it is possible for Wimbledon to reach the quarter-finals for the first time since they lost at Everton in 1989. Kinnear, however, expects more consistency from Holdsworth, with Andy Clarke, Jon Goodman and the promising Jason Euell all pressing for inclusion in the starting XI. "Maybe Jason deserves to be in on a regular basis," admitted Kinnear after the substitute created the Holdsworth goal that ended four hours and 13 minutes of goalless deadlock between the clubs this season.

Kinnear's embarrassment of attacking riches may mean Holdsworth will be the next player sold to keep the Dons' finances in check. A mere 5,220 watched the fourth-round replay at Selhurst Park, and Kinnear said: "It was such a disappointing turn-out. That is why we have to sell every year."

Bryan Robson, a manager with a sizeable budget, will now be focusing on halting Middlesbrough's free fall down the Premiership. There will be no managerial Wembley triumph to add to a hat-trick of FA Cup successes with Manchester United.

After seven successive Premiership defeats - 10 in their last 13 games - Robson will be desperate to remedy Middlesbrough's parlous form against Bolton on Saturday.

"The lads have got to believe in themselves again and make sure they pull the season around," Robson said. However, he will be without Juninho against Bolton, Coventry and Everton. The Brazilian has returned home to play in an Olympic qualifying tournament.

Simon Charlton yesterday reflected on the last-gasp clearances which earned Southampton a place in the last 16, his head still ringing after an accidental clash in the frantic finale at Gresty Road. Charlton's intervention enabled Southampton to book a fifth-round trip to Swindon on Saturday.

The 24-year-old defender believes the injury-time headers that prevented first Crewe's Dele Adebola, then Shaun Smith, levelling and forcing extra time could prove a significant moment in the Saints' FA Cup campaign.

"We destroyed them in the first half, and could have scored a lot more than the three we got. We all knew in the dressing-room that it was the best we'd played in ages," Charlton said.

"I think we thought we were going to stroll through but we were a different team in the second half, and so were Crewe. In the end we were hanging on for grim death.

"Having held on, though, we really believe we can go all the way. History tells you that anybody can get to Wembley and that it's not just the clubs who spend millions of pounds who have the right. If we play like we did in the first half, there's no reason at all why we can't end up at the Twin Towers."

Charlton, now established in the Southampton team since leaving Huddersfield three years ago, admitted the prospect of a first Cup final since the famous Wembley victory of 1976 was already warming the heart of Lawrie McMenemy.

McMenemy, the manager that day and now director of football at The Dell, has control of a tight budget and, as Charlton conceded, a Wembley run would make a significant difference to the club's finances.

"We know it won't be easy at Swindon on Saturday but going all the way would be a huge money-raiser for us," he said. "I certainly don't think Lawrie will be complaining too much, in fact he'll be hoping to milk it for all it's worth."

For Crewe, the end of the Cup run means attention can be concentrated on achieving that which has eluded them in the 85 years since they joined the League: getting out of the bottom two divisions.

Dario Gradi, the Crewe manager whose Northern Irish international midfielder, Neil Lennon, is set to join the list of Gresty Road departures that includes Rob Jones, David Platt, Geoff Thomas and Craig Hignett by joining Coventry for pounds 750,000, believes his side will take heart from their efforts.

Gradi, forced to send out a team missing four regulars, including the influential Steve Macauley, said: "Nobody looked out of their depth, in fact all of them looked up to what is needed against Premiership players. I'd like to think we can learn from the game as well and take that into the last few months of the season."

Comments