RAY Harford is sweating on the fitness of winger Stuart Ripley and, in particular, striker Mike Newell as Blackburn Rovers bid to bury their away jinx at Wimbledon tomorrow.

Ripley, who damaged an ankle against his old club Middlesbrough last weekend, has managed to do some training so has a decent chance of facing the daunting Dons at Selhurst Park.

But Newell has been laid up this week with the heel injury he collected at Coventry. Although he passed a late test to play last Saturday, the bruising is now coming out and it is very sore.

It's just another problem to solve for the Rovers manager who already has to find a replacement for Graeme Le Saux.

Chris Coleman seems certain to step into the back four for his first start as a Rovers player - at his former Selhurst Park home.

Whether he plays full back or links with Colin Hendry in the centre remains to be seen.

With Chris Sutton still troubled by his ankle injury, Graham Fenton and Kevin Gallacher would seem to be the likliest stand-by candidates if Newell and/or Ripley fail to make it.

Harford has plenty of other options too, following his spate of signings, including Billy McKinlay and Niklas Gudmundsson.

Rovers will take a big squad South as they look for their first away win of the season in the Premiership. But the starting line-up seems likely to come from: Flowers, Kenna, Berg, Hendry, Coleman, Ripley, Sherwood, Batty, Bohinen, Shearer, Newell, Fenton, Gallacher, McKinlay.

For the manager, it will be a nostalgic return to Selhurst, where he was boss of Wimbledon for a year and admitted that was a great education for him, particularly working with Sam Hammam. "You learn things at every club and at Wimbledon it was - different," he smiled.

"But it was certainly educational working with Sam and I learned the business side of football from him.

"He will tell you he doesn't know about football. But he knows about people and he has good policies over scouting and buying and selling."

"Sam taught me to be more diligent about some things, about preparing for every eventuality. When he sells a player there's a 120 per cent guarantee that there is cover for him.

"He's infectious to be around and I would like to think he educated me in lots of ways.

"You can only have admiration for the job they have done to take Wimbledon to where they are now.

"They create a spirit of being the underdogs. They are happy to be the 'warriors', not by the way they play but in their mentality. They want people who are hungry for success."

One man who long typified that spirit, Vinnie Jones, is expected to be on the bench tomorrow with Wimbledon unchanged barring late problems.

They are expected to choose from: Heald, Cunningham, Kimble, Leonhardsen, Earle, Ekoku, Holdsworth, Goodman, Reeves, Harford, Perry, Jones, Gayle, Segers.

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