Blackburn Rovers 3 Wimbledon 1
It has been a strange season for Neil Sullivan. The Wimbledon goalkeeper was a national figure of fun when he made a habit of being lobbed from long range in the opening weeks.
He then settled into a vein of reliable form that had much to do with his club's progress in three competitions. On Saturday at Ewood Park, however, he was firmly reinstated as a liability. Surely it cannot simply be due to being co-opted into the Scotland squad?
Quite apart from being at fault with Blackburn's first two goals, Sullivan's unpredictability with the ball at his feet kept the nerves of an already jittery back four stretched to breaking point.
When he had to kick, the ball could go anywhere. It seemed that the back- pass law had been designed specifically to torment him and, by the middle of the second half, the referee was awarding him free-kicks, either out of sympathy or on the assumption that he must have been fouled or interfered with.
The Wimbledon manager, Joe Kinnear, was all sympathy as well. "He has been outstanding for us all season," he said. "This wasn't his best game and he made a couple of errors that cost us."
Sullivan was not alone in being badly below par. After the heartbreak of their Coca-Cola Cup defeat at the hands of Leicester in midweek, Wimbledon looked weary and disillusioned. Significantly, Kinnear was counting down the remaining games - "We've only got 10 to go" - while clinging to the thought that one of them, the FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea, is a chance to restore all their faded optimism. "It's no use feeling sorry for ourselves," he said. "We've still got one massive game to look forward to."
For Blackburn, it was a good day to play Wimbledon - and a particularly good day for Kevin Gallacher, who scored all three of their goals.
His pleasure in his first hat-trick for the club - and the first by anyone since the days when Alan Shearer used to scatter them around like confetti - will not be diluted by the help he was given by the opposition.
Sullivan put the ball at his feet for the first two and he was given acres of space in the penalty area from which to volley his third. Wimbledon, not for the first time on the afternoon, had gone missing.
Goals: Gallacher (7) 1-0; Gallacher (26); 2-0; Ekoku (39) 2-1; Gallacher (58) 3-1.
Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Flowers; Kenna, Berg, Hendry, Le Saux; Sherwood, McKinlay, Flitcroft, Wilcox; Gallacher (Donis, 87), Pedersen (Warhurst, 75). Substitutes not used: Bohinen, Marker, Given (gk).
Wimbledon (4-4-2): Sullivan; Cunningham, Perry, Blackwell, Kimble; Goodman (Harford, 30), Jones, Earle, Leonhardsen; Ekoku, Gayle. Substitutes not used: McAllister, Euell, Fear, Heald (gk).
Referee: G Poll (Tring). Bookings: Wimbledon: Blackwell, Ekoku.
Man of the match: Gallacher. Attendance: 23,333.
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