Goalscorer: Les Ferdinand 8, 29, Dean Holdsworth 19, 65, Efan Ekoku 21, Keith Gillespie 35
Wimbledon: Paul Heald, Kenny Cunningham, Alan Kimble, Andy Pearce (Alan Reeves 46), Chris Perry, Robbie Earle, Oyvind Leonhardsen, Jon Goodman, Efan Ekoku (Marcus Gayle 46), Mick Harford, Dean Holdsworth
Newcastle United: Shaka Hislop, Warren Barton, John Beresford, Steve Howey, Darren Peacock, Lee Clark, Rob Lee, Keith Gillespie, David Ginola, Peter Beardsley, Les Ferdinand
Referee: Gerald Ashby, Attendance: 18,002
Newcastle United had made a flying start to the 1995-1996 Premier League campaign. Kevin Keegan’s side had only failed to win twice when they travelled to Selhurst Park in early December to play Wimbledon. Their record at Selhurst Park against the Dons was dismal, having lost six of their previous seven visits there. This would be another difficult afternoon against Joe Kinnear’s side that needed points themselves. Wimbledon came into this match in the bottom three in the table.
It was the league leaders who broke the deadlock inside eight minutes. Mick Harford lost possession and Newcastle made a sweeping break forward. Former Wimbledon player Warren Barton produced a super ball for Les Ferdinand to score his 16th Premier League goal of the season. It was his fourth of the current campaign against Wimbledon, having grabbed a hat-trick on Tyneside back in October.
However, if Newcastle thought it was going to be a routine afternoon from that point onwards, they would be seriously mistaken. Wimbledon often raised their game for matches against the more prestigious clubs in the division and they demonstrated this with two quick-fire goals to lead 2-1 by the 21st minute. First, Dean Holdsworth levelled the game, finding some space in the box to curl the ball beyond Shaka Hislop after being picked out by Jon Goodman. Then, Hislop made a mess of a looping ball into the box from Alan Kimble. Goodman lobbed the ball back across the box and ex-Newcastle player Harford’s shot was diverted into the net by Efan Ekoku.
Within half an hour, Newcastle were back on level terms in a free-flowing match where attacks were definitely doing better than defences. Ferdinand scored his second. David Ginola dropped a ball into the near post and Ferdinand evaded his marker in the penalty area to make it 2-2. It was only early December and in all competitions, Ferdinand already had 20 goals to his name – firmly justifying the £6 million price tag Newcastle had paid Queens Park Rangers in the summer for his services.
By half-time, Keegan’s Magpies’ were leading for the second time. Ferdinand turned goal provider. He had the beating of Chris Perry on the left-hand side, before cutting the ball back into the danger area. Keith Gillespie went for the ball with Kenny Cunningham and the ball came off one of them and trickled into the net. Replays later showed that Gillespie had got the faintest of touches and so could be credited with the goal. Injuries to Andy Pearce and Ekoku at half-time forced Kinnear into two half-time substitutions but Wimbledon showed great character to level the match again with 25 minutes remaining. Kimble did brilliantly to shake off Gillespie, before delivering a brilliant cross. 36-year-old Harford won the header in the air against John Beresford and Holdsworth was there to score his second of the contest, despite Hislop getting a strong hand to his header.
The final outcome was a fair result in an enthralling contest. Newcastle had trouble in the capital all season, failing to win in London and that was one of the reasons why they surrendered a 12-point lead in January to finish runners-up to Manchester United.