Jones on target for record

Wimbledon 4 Ekoku 2, Earle 31, Leonhardsen 67, Jones 86 Sheffield Wednesday 2 Booth 3, Hyde 72 Attendance: 10,512
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The Independent Online
Wimbledon achieved their record-breaking sixth successive win in the top flight yesterday, but the margin of victory was not nearly as emphatic as the scoreline might suggest. Indeed, were it not for two brilliant reflex saves from Dons' goalkeeper Neil Sullivan, just three minutes apart in the final 10 minutes, Wednesday might well be returning north with all three points themselves.

With the match tantalisingly poised at 3-2 to Wimbledon with 10 minutes remaining, Wednesday's striker Andy Booth found himself free eight yards out, but his fierce strike was deflected over by Sullivan's outstretched arm. Wimbledon's panic had barely subsided when Robbie Earle handled the ball from Orlando Trustfull's pass and David Hirst stepped up to take the penalty. Another fierce strike and another reflex stop. Still 3-2 to Wimbledon.

Wednesday visibly deflated and it was no surprise when two minutes later they committed yet another defensive error to allow Vinnie Jones to steal in at the far post and head home substitute, Alan Kimble's corner. Wimbledon ahead 4-2 and the record was in the bag at last.

If the final 10 minutes were laced with drama, then the first four were little more than low farce. With just three minutes gone Wednesday defender Jon Newsome, deputising for the suspended Des Walker, made a back pass to Kevin Pressman's right. But as the goalkeeper made a laboured attempt to manoeuvre the ball to his left foot, Efan Ekoku sneaked in and walked the ball into the net.

Thirty seconds later, the ball was in Wimbledon's penalty area and Booth was in an absurd amount of space. He swivelled, drove low to Sullivan's left and the scores were level again.

Although the quality of the football never rose much above the ordinary, Wednesday's central defenders were proving so inept at dealing the aerial threat of Ekoku and Gayle that another goal was almost inevitable. Eventually Gayle chipped in one cross too many for the beleaguered defence and Ekoku popped up between Newsome and Dejan Stefanovic to take full advantage of the free header to put Wimbledon 2-1.

Then just after the hour a long throw from Jones was headed neatly by Stefanovic straight into the path of Oyvind Leonhardsen and it was 3-1 to Wimbledon. Wednesday should have been out of the game. But Trustfull, who added zip to Wednesday's attack when he came on at half-time, made a diagonal run, passed to Regi Blinker, who crossed for Graham Hyde to dart through and chip the ball in. Now it was 3-2 to Wimbledon and cue the entrance of Sullivan.

Joe Kinnear was justifiably jubilant at his team's performance, but added an element of caution, commenting: "We mustn't get carried away by this and it is important to remain level-headed." He was also full of praise for his young and inexperienced back four, but for a while he may have to do without Brian McAllister who has a suspected broken leg.

David Pleat may dream wistfully of such a young and inexperienced back four, but instead he is strengthening his midfield, confirming that Benito Carbone will be signed from Inter Milan tomorrow. Pleat also lost a defender - Peter Atherton with a broken nose - but these injuries were the only blots in a match which made up in jaw-dropping entertainment what it lacked in technical quality.