Wimbledon's gang show

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The Independent Online
Wimbledon 2

Holdsworth 35, 40 pen

Nottingham Forest 2

Phillips 14, Stone 73

Attendance: 15,341

HAVING seen Vinny Jones trample over many a herd of visiting players, Sam Hammam, the Wimbledon master of ceremonies, decided to end the season at Selhurst Park yesterday by having an elephant lead out the teams. Perhaps a case of Vinnybeing temporarily truncated as the heavyweight star.

Wimbledon were justifying their title as the Crazy Gang, celebrating staying on the Premiership's high wire, while Forest were rejoicing over getting into next season's European circus. If it was all designed to be a bit of a party, with Forest fans in fancy dress and balloons everywhere, the fact that Jones and Forest's Stuart Pearce were in the cast guaranteed that not everything would be frivolous.

Wimbledon hustled in their familiar way and Forest backtracked until the 14th minute, when Pearce came out of defence to present Stan Collymore with the ball wide on the left. Collymore quickly slipped a pass inside, and David Phillips took a gamble from over 25 yards and hit the jackpot. Neil Sullivan felt only the slipstream.

Having half a dozen regular first-team players absent, Wimbledon might have wavered, but there was no summer-holiday attitude, especially from Jones, who not only broke up Forest attacks, but almost became a full- time attacker himself. The danger was that Collymore and Jason Lee became increasingly threatening from breakaways, but Jones saw to it that Wimbledon benefited from his efforts when his long pass into the penalty area was controlled by Dean Holdsworth, who turned and shot in. Four minutes later, Holdsworth took Wimbledon ahead from the penalty spot after Pearce handled Oyvind Leonhardsen's low cross.

If Forest felt hard done by because Pearce could hardly have avoided being hit by the shot, they showed little serious inclination to fight their way back. Considered football had got them to third place in the Premiership, and here they clearly considered that sooner or later their familiar neatness and persistent feeding of Collymore and Lee, especially by the industrious Scot Gemmill, would pay off.

After 72 minutes their patience was rewarded, when Steve Stone's hopeful lob sneaked under the crossbar, helped slightly by Sullivan's hand. Sadly on this otherwise light-hearted day, that was to be Sullivan's last contribution. A heavy collision with Lee and an awkward fall ended with him being treated on the pitch for seven minutes before being carried off with a broken leg.

Stone probably felt more than justified in his reward since a few minutes earlier he had been brought down by Alan Kimble, if not inside the area then only half a stride outside. A draw was fitting on a day marred by injury. Unfortunately, hundreds of Forest fans took their celebrations on to the pitch. As the Forest manager, Frank Clark, said: "If they do that next season, we could be put out of Europe."

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