Arsenal 0 - 1 Wimbledon


Lukic, Dixon, Winterburn, Vieira, Bould (Morrow 46), Wright, Merson, Bergkamp, Parlour (Hughes 45), Garde (Shaw 79), Marshall. Subs Not Used: Selley, Harper.


Sullivan, Cunningham, Kimble, Jones (McAllister 56), Blackwell, Leonhardsen (Fear 13), Earle, Ekoku, Gayle (Holdsworth 87), Perry, Ardley. Subs Not Used: Heald, Goodma






P Jones (Loughborough).

here was no surprise result at Highbury yesterday as Wimbledon extended their unbeaten record at Arsenal's home to eight games over 10 years by playing the sort of thoughtful and effective football that is becoming their trademark.

In a season when Chesterfield and Stockport could win the major domestic cup competitions, it is unwise to make too many predictions but Arsenal's chances of taking the Premiership now seem more mathematical than realistic.

They are six points behind Manchester United, who have a game in hand, and successive home defeats have dented their championship hopes. Arsene Wenger's side did not play well yesterday and many of their fans showed a remarkable intolerance by booing and jeering at the end.

Arsenal are still fourth in the Premiership and will probably qualify for the UEFA Cup. Surely they have done enough to deserve more than brickbats even for the second home defeat in a week? There have, after all, been more good times than bad under Wenger, the disciplinary record apart.

Wimbledon have eyes on the Treble, even the Quadruple if you include the Fair Play League, in which they are second to Sheffield Wednesday. They have had only two Premiership bookings in five games during 1997, one apiece for central defenders Chris Perry and Dean Blackwell, an amazing record for players whose job it is to win the ball.

Their winner, in the 23rd minute, was scored by Vinnie Jones and even David Beckham would have been proud of the Welsh international's clinical volley from Neil Ardley's centre after Lee Dixon had only half-cleared Alan Kimble's corner.

The Highbury screen showed a close up of Joe Kinnear smiling broadly. "I thought 'Oh, no - we'll never hear the end of this' " said the Wimbledon manager. "He does it day in, day out in training. Too often his disciplinary record overshadows his ability."

Praising Jones does not come easily or naturally to most football observers but credit where it is due: the Wimbledon captain is having the best season of his career (though many would no doubt say that should not be difficult). He seems to have shed the unacceptable edge to his tackles and is now winning the ball well and using it decisively.

Wimbledon fully deserved their victory at Highbury, where Arsenal's lack of strength in depth was underlined by the fact they finished with a back-three of Paul Shaw, Steve Morrow and Scott Marshall.

Ian Wright hit an upright in the 13th minute but was a peripheral figure after that, perhaps affected by the incident involving Peter Schmeichel last Wednesday.

Dennis Bergkamp showed some deft touches but generally Arsenal were too predictable against a Wimbledon side who registered their 14th clean sheet of the season.

Arsenal's best efforts during the second half were a Bergkamp shot, which Neil Sullivan did well to palm for a corner, and a shot by Patrick Vieira which the Wimbledon goalkeeper parried for Neil Ardley to clear.

Ardley, Efan Ekoku and Marcus Gayle went close for Wimbledon, who are likely to be without Jones and Oyvind Leonhardsen (who both sustained calf injuries) against Southampton in their Coca-Cola Cup tie on Wednesday.

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Last Updated: Friday March 07, 1997 08:07:29 -0500

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