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Friday, 7 September, 2001, 12:45 GMT 13:45 UK
Wimbledon stung at Watford
Wimbledon goalkeeper Paul Heald is sent-off
Mike Pike (r) dismisses Wimbledon keeper Paul Heald
Watford 3-0 Wimbledon

Watford notched up their third successive home win on Sunday, but Gianluca Vialli's side only took control of the match after Wimbledon goalkeeper Paul Heald was harshly sent-off.

Before Heald was dismissed - five minutes before the interval - the game had been evenly balanced.

But once the Wimbledon goalkeeper had departed Watford dominated the match.

Wimbledon's misery intensified when Nordin Wooter, impressive throughout, scored the opening goal in first-half injury time.

Two more goals early in the second-half - from former Wimbledon striker Marcus Gayle and Paul Robinson - rubbed even more salt into the visitors' wounds.

Wooter, a former Dutch international, side-footed home from close range after he had been set-up by Tommy Smith's cross.

Soon after the restart Watford doubled their advantage as Wooter turned provider when he crossed from the right for former Wimbledon striker Marcus Gayle to head home.

In the 53rd minute Paul Robinson made it three when he was the quickest to react after Wimbledon's Kevin Cooper failed to clear Stephen Glass' cross.

Wimbledon's Neil Ardley challenges Watford's Micah Hyde
Watford's Micah Hyde (r) challenges Neil Ardley

Wimbledon have already used three keepers this season and they suffered more goalkeeping problems when the referee Mike Pike dismissed Heald for deliberate handball.

The Wimbledon goalkeeper had come to the edge of his box to collect the ball, but under pressure from Gayle, Heald's momentum carried out him just out of the penalty area.

Wimbledon manager Terry Burton withdrew Joel McAnuff and sent on substitute keeper Ian Feuer as he juggled his resources.

Wimbledon's player disadvantage meant that they had few attacking opportunities.

David Connolly went close just after Watford had scored their third goal and then Cooper, attempting to redeem his early error, hit the post with a low shot.

During the interval Wimbledon's travelling contingent of fans released hundreds of black balloons in protest at the club's continued plans to relocate to Milton Keynes.

Watford: Baardsen, Cox, Vega, Galli, Robinson, Fisken, Hyde, Glass, Wooter, Smith, Gayle. Subs: Chamberlain, Noel-Williams, Helguson, Noble, Ward.

Wimbledon: Heald, Kimble, Willmott, Holloway, Cooper, Gier, Ardley, Roberts, McAnuff, Connolly, Shipperley. Subs: Andersen, Agyemang, Darlington, Feuer, Leigertwood.

Referee: M Pike (Barrow-in-Furness).

BBC Sport's Simon Brotherton
"This match turned on a decision five minutes before the break"
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