Thorn's off and on day

Wimbledon 1 Babb og 30 Liverpool 0 Attendance: 19,530
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The Independent Online
THERE'S rarely a dull moment when these sides collide and this was no exception. From the congestion and confusion outside Selhurst Park as Wimbledon's biggest crowd in years tried to get in, to the dismissal of demon king Vinny Jones - on queue, it could be said - it turned into an afternoon to remember with the underdogs leap-frogging over their more fancied, expensive guests in the Premiership table by virtue of their win.

First things first. After 20 minutes Andy Thorn and Stan Collymore fell out over the legalities involved in their challenge for a 50-50 ball. Attacking postures were adopted, enter the Demon Vinny. As peacemaker? We thought for a fleeting second. We were wrong - it was to initiate his own version of Operation Deliberate Force against Liverpool's pounds 8 million man.

Referee Keith Burge saw enough to order that Jones have first go at the Badedas. Thorn, thinking he had been sent off as well, went to the dressing- room but returned to the fray when Joe Kinnear, the Wimbledon manager, queried the sentence with the officials.

The incident certainly caused an hitherto fluent and confident Liverpool to start spluttering. Ten minutes later they temporarily seized up when Mick Harford claimed the touch to Thorn's free-kick from the left wing that squeezed the only goal past David James, though it seemed that Phil Babb was actually the last player to make contact with the ball.

Liverpool were rattled and showed it until Collymore and Jamie Redknapp bulged Paul Heald's side-netting in quick succession 10 minutes into the second half. John Barnes had begun to bestride the midfield, coaxing, cajoling and stroking accurate passes hither and thither. But that was not too difficult to do as Wimbledon had chosen to retreat behind their 18-yard line with no intention of coming out. With Steve McManaman unwillling or unable to get past Kenny Cunningham to the byline, Liverpool's menace tended to be choked in the crowded pedestrian zone within the Wimbledon penalty area.

Still, there were some close shaves during that second half period, although the visitors seemed bereft of the skill to create a clear-cut chance. Robbie Fowler's blond coiffure sent a Barnes's lob looping just over the bar and Collymore brought out Heald's best when the goalkeeper touched his header from substitute Michael Thomas's cross on to the bar. But there was better in the 89th minute when Heald bravely dived at Fowler's feet to avert a disaster after the striker had been gifted the chance of the match by a slack Robbie Earle back-pass.

By then Wimbledon knew it was to be their day and substitute Andy Clarke - virtually the only Wimbledon shirt sighted beyond the half-way line for most of the second half - staggered past the challenge of Babb and down on the unprotected James only to fluff his shot.