That was the weekend that was

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Ainsworth's late, late date with fate

THE DATE on the calendar meant it had to be a weekend for a substitute to do something special. It was just a shame for Ruud Gullit - depending on your point of view - that the substitute in the spotlight was Wimbledon's Gareth Ainsworth.

The midfielder may not have been aware of the significance of the date, but his two-goal match-saving performance at St James' Park came 34 years to the day after Keith Peacock became a name to be forever noted by football historians as the first player used as a substitute.

On the bench for Charlton's match against Bolton on 21 August 1965, Peacock - now assistant manager at The Valley - had only 11 minutes to wait before he was required to strip off as goalkeeper Mick Rose went down injured. To his relief, Peacock was not required to take over between the posts as Bolton won 4-2 - that duty went to John Hewie. Later the same day, Barrow's Bobby Knox became the first substitute to score as the Cumbrians defeated Wrexham.

Ainsworth needed only nine minutes to make his mark for Wimbledon which, by coincidence, was the time it took Richard Appleby to launch Swansea towards victory at Macclesfield in Saturday's other super-sub performance. Appleby struck after 60 and 85 minutes in a 2-1 win. Manchester City's Gareth Taylor, Hartlepool's Craig Midgley and Tony Thorpe of Bristol City were the day's other scoring substitutes.

Just to give the occasion a family flavour, Gavin Peacock - son of Keith - found the target for Queen's Park Rangers, equalising against Wolves at Loftus Road, although he was on the field from the start.

Red-card rumpus for Widdrington

DID PORT Vale's Tommy Widdrington set a record with his sending- off against Birmingham on Saturday?

First-minute dismissals are not unknown but what was remarkable about the red card shown to the former Southampton and Grimsby midfielder at St Andrews was that it occurred in the 27-year-old player's comeback match following a three-game ban triggered by another sending-off.

Widdrington was given his marching orders in the last game of Port Vale's 1998-99 campaign, dismissed at Gigg Lane for allegedly stamping on Bury's Dean West.

Saturday's exit - timed variously from 45 to 75 seconds, according to unsynchronised watches in the press box - followed a two-footed challenge on Paul Furlong which so incensed Birmingham's Gary Rowett, who pushed Widdrington in the chest, that he was lucky his match did not also end prematurely.

Both red cards were seemingly out of character for Widdrington, who had been booked only five times in two seasons - a fair achievement given today's strict refereeing - before his sending-off at Bury and had been dismissed only once before in his professional career.

KEY NUMBERS

16

The number of months Georgi Hristov had to wait to add a fifth Barnsley goal to the four he scored in the Premiership.

86

Alan Wright's unbettered record of consecutive Premiership appearances for Aston Villa.

100

Warren Barton's total appearances for Newcastle, having brought up the century against his former club Wimbledon.

675

The number of League appearances by former Everton and now Torquay goalkeeper Neville Southall

WHINGE OF THE WEEK

"Injuries to vital players cost us the game. We were extremely unlucky, but what can you do?"

Ruud Gullit, finding more ways to excuse another Newcastle setback, this time against Wimbledon.

RUMOURS

United to step up chase for Campbell

MANCHESTER UNITED have approved a pounds 15m bid for Tottenham's Sol Campbell, according to the Sunday Mirror, which reckons the Old Trafford club will try to prise Lucas Radebe away from Leeds if their Campbell move fails. The People says that Aston Villa would want pounds 13m for Ugo Ehiogu, supposedly another United target, while the News of the World believes that "secret talks" have taken place aimed at reviving a pounds 35m deal to bring Barcelona's Rivaldo to Old Trafford.

The People names West Brom's young Italian midfielder Enzo Maresca as a target for Arsenal, who are linked by the Sunday Mirror with a move for the Internazionale defender Taribo West. Middlesbrough, The People suggests, could tempt West Brom with a pounds 3.5m package for winger Kevin Kilbane.

Tottenham are preparing a pounds 5m bid for Wimbledon's Jason Euell, according to the Sunday Mirror, who name Daniel Fonseca of Juventus as a possible alternative. The News of the World, meanwhile, suggests that George Graham's Selhurst Park target, at pounds 6m, is Carl Cort.

Both The Express and The Mirror say Aston Villa will not step up their attempts to strike a deal for West Brom's Lee Hughes. The News of the World links Villa with a move for Feyenoord's 6ft 8in Argentine forward, Julio Cruz, and says Liverpool are looking at Deportivo la Coruna's pounds 4m- rated defender Nourredine Naybet.

CARD CHECK

Sunderland's Alex Rae, sent off for a second yellow card against Leeds, had been booked in each of the teams' previous Premiership meetings, at Elland Road in November 1996 and Roker Park the following February.

Mark Hughes picked up his third yellow card in consecutive matches when he was cautioned during Southampton's defeat at Everton.

NET MINDER

The news that David Platt is to drop his interest in Andy Booth will go down well with Forest supporters... It is possible he might be about to come good but fans are happy for that to be explored elsewhere.

News item on Teamtalk's Nottingham Forest page - www.imsport.co.uk - bad luck boys, the Sunday papers reckon the deal is on again.

Forgotten man... Face of the future

Dave Beasant

Nottingham Forest

THE FORMER Wimbledon goalkeeper lost his place in the Forest side soon after Manchester United put eight past him last February, Mark Crossley regaining favour. Since then, Crossley has pledged his future to Forest and both Liverpool and Newcastle have asked about Beasant. Yet, despite turning 40, and with his friend and former Forest manager, Dave Bassett, eager to take him to Barnsley, the veteran signed a new one-year contract at the City Ground in July.

Sean Davis

Fulham

WINNING A place in Fulham's expensively assembled side is tough for any home-grown player, but the 19-year-old Clapham-born Sean Davis has impressed the manager at Craven Cottage, Paul Bracewell, enough to start all four matches so far and score his first goal, to boot, in a 2-1 Worthington Cup win at Northampton. Bracewell's predecessor as Fulham manager, Kevin Keegan, reckoned the strong midfielder to be "as good as anyone I've seen at his age".

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