Seven up for Villa

Aston Villa 7 Reeves og 12, Johnson 22, 26, 38, Saunders 48, pen 67, Yorke 83 Wimbledon 1 Barton 11 Attendance: 23,982
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The Independent Online
Blink at your peril. For Villa it was one of those days when they could do no wrong. For Wimbledon, it was baffling that they were not playing Sunday morning football on Wimbledon Common.

A hat-trick by Tommy Johnson and two Dean Saunders goals did not tell the full story. The Dons were destroyed by late running from deep positions and if the Wimbledon defence and midfield were marking zonally, they were marking the wrong zones. If they were man-marking, they were chasing shadows.

Just imagine Wimbledon of three years ago being on the receiving end of such a result without so much as a yellow card. The Crazy Gang have turned into the Cuddly Club.

At 6-1 it was time for Joe Kinnear to react. His two strikers, Dean Holdsworth and Mick Harford, were sacrificed and the move almost paid immediate dividends. But Jon Goodman's first touch, a point-blank header only won a corner.

Dwight Yorke completed the rout, played late into the box yet again, this time by Saunders. His dummy sent Hans Segers sprawling and his deft clip found the bottom far corner.

Wimbledon's opener came against the run of play and straight out of their simplified text-books. Holdsworth volleyed a cross from the left flank deep into the area, Harford headed down and Warren Barton volleyed into the top corner.

They were, however, not defending deeply enough and the precise supply from Steve Staunton and Andy Townsend often found space. The first beneficiary was Dean Saunders, who saw his near-post shot deflected in off Reeves, after Saunders was cleverly released into the area by Staunton. Johnson's first was the result of a similar build-up, this time Gary Charles reaching the right byline. His cross found Johnson alert at the near post, a powerful header beating Segers.

It was Wimbledon's turn to find similar space for Johnson's second, a wayward Harford back- pass releasing him for a one-on-one with Segers. Johnson's hat-trick was courtesy of Shaun Teale, left unguarded from a typical inswinging Staunton corner. Teale's driven shot found Johnson nipping in at the far post.

In fact, the 4-1 half-time scoreline flattered Wimbledon. Staunton had been masterful throughout, cleverly mixing the range of his distribution.

Fittingly, it was his neat ball which found Saunders for the best goal of the bunch. Saunders dragged the pass clear of his marker and from 35 yards blasted a drive into the top corner.

Even the decisions were going Villa's way. Johnson played in Taylor, running into the box late from midfield, but the ball had already rebounded from the hoardings when Taylor was tripped by Segers. Saunders gleefully accepted the penalty.

Kinnear promised a similar performance would never happen again, saying: "It has brought us down to earth. Some of our players were getting carried away with our success and we came to the wrong place at the wrong time. Villa outplayed us in every part of the field and our players have let themselves and the club down."

Villa's manager, Brian Little, was restrained. "You have to enjoy these games when they come along but you still yell at people, because you are looking for it to be spot on," he said, after his club's biggest win in 33 years. "At times the performance was good. I think we've had games where we've had the same amount of chances without scoring."

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