Wimbledon flirt with danger

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The Independent Online
Wimbledon 3 Aston Villa 3

Sometime, probably in the not too distant future, the name of Wimbledon will disappear from the register of Premier League clubs and their period at the top will pass into footballing folklore. Did they really stay up for all that time? And did they really win the FA Cup?

For 10 years we have been waiting for Wimbledon to fall, and every year they defy the laws of gravity. But this time, after a promising start, they have withered away and for once are caught up in the struggle at the bottom.

The tale of this impoverished club battling gamely with no home and no fans has never been a romantic one, owing largely to their uncomplicated and unattractive style of play. But at a time when transfer fees are going through the roof, and smaller clubs are fearing the worst from the Bosman case, suddenly Wimbledon are winning sympathy in a sport having the life squeezed out of it by businessmen and bureaucrats.

Never mind that all their goals seem to be bundled in after an almighty scramble; they have shown that a club can be run, even at the highest level, without competing in the transfer market. If Coventry or Middlesbrough go down this season, and Wimbledon stay up, what a nonsense that would make of the millions spent by Ron Atkinson and Bryan Robson.

For Wimbledon to avoid the drop, they will need to steer clear of presenting sides like Aston Villa with a penalty and two own goals, one of them, by Alan Reeves, a particularly stunning strike from around the penalty spot with no Villa player near him.

Villa created few chances of their own, despite their stylish approach play, although Wimbledon went perilously close to defeat, needing a header from Mick Harford in injury time to draw level. But the first side to put three goals past Villa this season might have expected more than a point.

"We scored five goals and still haven't come out the winners," said Joe Kinnear, their manager, in good humour. "I know they played well and had a certain amount of possession, but they're a big expensive side, aren't they?

"We're up against it financially, but we've still got enough about us to frighten a few more teams. We'll frighten Huddersfield to death on Wednesday, take Chelsea to pieces on Saturday and off we go again. In the last eight of the Cup, and you'll all be up here again next season! You can do it on a shoestring. It's all possible."

Most club chairmen will be fervently hoping so from now on.

Goal: Goodman (10) 1-0; Reeve (og 34) 1-1; Goodman (46) 2-1; Yorke (pen 47) 2-2; Cunningham (og 58) 2-3; Harford (90) 3-3.

Wimbledon (4-3-3): Sullivan; Cunningham, Blackwell, Reeves, Kimble; Leonhardsen, Earle, Harford; Goodman, Gayle (Jones, 75), Clarke (Euell, 84). Substitute not used: Thorn.

Aston Villa (5-3-2): Bosnich; Charles, Ehiogu, Southgate, Staunton, Wright; Scimeca, (McGrath, 51), Draper, Townsend; Milosevic (Joachim, 84), Yorke. Substitute not used: Oakes (gk).

Referee: J Winter (Stockton-on-Tees).

Booking: Wimbledon: Harford.

Man of the match: Townsend.

Attendance: 12,193.

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