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The BBC's Ian Brown
"They were an insult to the never say die footballers"
 real 28k

Sunday, 14 May, 2000, 19:21 GMT 20:21 UK
Dons sent down at the Dell
Dons
Two strikes and the Dons were out
Southampton 2-0 Wimbledon

Spectacular second-half goals from Southampton's Wayne Bridge and Marian Pahars sent Wimbledon crashing out of the Premiership, after a tense encounter at the Dell.

Saints forward Bridge struck first blood with a fantastic free kick which gave keeper Neil Sullivan little chance.



This has been a desperately disappointing day for our supporters but it is our responsibility - myself and the players - to start rebuilding and to bring this club back up

Wimbledon boss Terry Burton
And minutes before the end the Latvian Marian Pahars tricked his way into the 18-yard box and struck a low shot to destroy Wimbledon hopes.

Wimbledon's interim manager Terry Burton was almost lost for words at the end of the match.

"This has been a desperately disappointing day for our supporters but it is our responsibility, myself and the players, to start rebuilding and to bring this club back up," said Burton.

The Dons were under pressure for most of the match after hearing the news that Bradford had taken an early lead against Liverpool.

But much of Wimbledon's bad luck was down to a lack of invention and a cutting edge which was needed to break down a spirited Saints side.

The Selhurst Park outfit knew prior to the match that their fate largely lay in their own hands.

Dons groans

With a plus-five superior goal difference, their mission at the Dell was to simply win.


Euell
Euell was unlucky in front of goal

The steely determination shown by the Dons over the past few years would be tested to the full in the close knit arena of Southampton's ground.

Interim boss Terry Burton had assembled a side that had the feeling of a Wimbledon team of old, leaving out foreign imports signed by former manager Egil Olsen.

In the opening moments the London side had to call upon all their experience to keep the scores at 0-0.

The dangerous Hachan Kachloul nearly opened up the Dons defence inside the penalty area, but his pull-back for Saints' striker Kevin Davies was well blocked by Wimbledon centre-back Ben Thatcher.

The Morrocan turned on the heat again, when he stormed down the right and zipped in an inviting cross into the 18-yard-box, only for forward Pahars to miss the ball by inches.

With 13 minutes of the match played, groans could be heard in the away end, as news of Bradford's goal at Valley Parade filtered through.

Dons midfielder Neil Ardley tried to heal the wound inflicted in Yorkshire, with a rasping effort that Saints' keeper Neil Moss managed to parry away from goal.

Promising striker Jason Euell improvised well to jink his way on the edge of the penalty area, but saw his angled shot creep past Moss' goal.

And soon afterwards Moss pulled out a great save to deny Dons' forward Carl Cort from close range.

Heartache

As the tannoy read out the half-time scores, there was a great cheer amongst the home supporters, with the news that Bradford were ahead against Liverpool.

The latest score would have been received the the away dressing room with certain discomfort, and after the interval Wimbledon had to come up with a reply.



All week we had to cut ourselves off from what was happening to Wimbledon to achieve a performance like that

Glenn Hoddle
But without the guile of midfielder Michael Hughes and the steady game of defender Kenny Cunningham, the Dons looked both open at the back and weak in attack.

Only 15 minutes had gone of the second-half when the Saints won a free kick on the edge of their penalty area.

Bridge, a 19-year-old, stepped up and blasted his effort in off the crossbar, to breaks the hearts of the few Dons fans that had turned up and the many that had not.

It may have appeared to some that Glenn Hoddle's side were the ones battling against relegation, as the Dons looked dispirited and dejected.

As the clock counted down the minutes, the final act in Wimbledon's Premiership story was written, when Pahars produced a little piece of magic, to defeat Sullivan and his sorry side.

Teams:

Southampton: Moss, Dodd, Tahar, Lundekvam, Bridge, Tessem, Oakley, Soltvedt, Kachloul, Pahars, Davies. Subs: Monk, Benali, Marsden, Rodrigues, Bevan.

Wimbledon: Sullivan, Jupp, Hreidarsson, Blackwell, Thatcher, Andersen, Cort, Ardley, Kimble, Gayle, Euell. Subs: Badir, Willmott, Francis, Lund, Heald.

Referee: S Lodge (Barnsley)

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