Fortunate three points for Town
FROM out of the Steel City gloom came a thunderbolt of light in the form of a Nicky Forster winner.Lucky it may have been, hard on Wednesday definitely, but the Blues won't care that they left Hillsborough with three very fortunate points.
By Derek Davis
FROM out of the Steel City gloom came a thunderbolt of light in the form of a Nicky Forster winner.
Lucky it may have been, hard on Wednesday definitely, but the Blues won't care that they left Hillsborough with three very fortunate points.
The game looked to be heading for the first-ever goalless draw between the two sides, in 30 meetings spanning 57 years, before Jason De Vos ignored the offside trap to gather Gavin Williams' clever dink over the advancing defence and square for Forster to turn in the winner two minutes from time.
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It was more than Town deserved, after surviving a number of scares and withstanding a Wednesday onslaught, on a pitch wrecked by a recent Westlife concert.
The Blues will be grateful they did not splash out £100,000 on Irish striker Daryl Murphy. On the evidence of his misses, you can see why Sunderland decided he needed more experience outside the Premiership.
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It was also obvious why the Owls have now gone five games without scoring. They created enough openings, certainly Forster would have loved the sort of service Murphy and Lee Peacock enjoyed, including the silver platter-offering handed to Murphy by Sito Castro.
But, while Forster buried the only opening he saw, Murphy, Peacock and Glenn Whelan all squandered opportunities for their first win in seven matches.
While on-loan Manchester City keeper Nicky Weaver stood round getting cold for most of the afternoon, Lewis Price showed why he is attracting Premiership scouts - there was a Wigan man in the crowd at Hillsborough.
He was first called into action as Wednesday countered from a Jim Magilton corner and David Graham teed up Murphy, who should have done better with his shot, although Price saved well.
Richard Naylor also denied the Irishman his first English goal when Murphy pounced on a seriously soft back-pass from Sito and he went round the keeper but his angled finish was weak and the Blues defender cleared with ease.
It is easy to see why Wednesday have found scoring so difficult, they have now failed to find the net in five matches.
Murphy did much better to get away from Naylor and hit a good left-foot shot across goal, which Price just managed to push away.
The Wales keeper also punched a free-kick away and laid out Graham Coughlan in the process, although the defender recovered, while his skipper Whelan performed an air kick with an attempted volley.
It was a joke miss that summed up the lack of quality in the game.
The only things Weaver had to deal with in the first half was a Williams drive from 20 yards and a Forster header from a Magilton free-kick.
There were times when it looked as if the two managers were amusing themselves with game of football chess.
Rarely have so many players been swapped about during game, as each looked to counter the other.
Darren Currie and Matt Richards were both dropped but brought on in the second half to give the team more cohesion. The Blues' reluctance to use Currie for away games is becoming evermore baffling, as he provides the most threat from set pieces and open play.
Richards was making his 100th league appearances and played both left-back and midfield during his 25-minute spell.
Sito and Fabian Wilnis swapped flanks, and the Dutchman also went to centre-back for 10 minutes as Naylor was thrust up front before being called back.
Meanwhile, Paul Sturrock was manoeuvring his troops all over the place.
The lack of pattern or cohesion was reflected in Town's mish-mash of a kit, with the orange and black away strip supplemented by the white shorts complete with blue flash. The fashion police were alerted.
As for the game itself, well the defence looked wobbly at times and a better finisher would have punished them thrice over and, indeed, Wednesday thought they had scored when a corner was met by Coughlan and clawed away by Price, before it had crossed the line according to the officials.
Peacock missed a second-half sitter from six yards and Wednesday were made to pay when Forster popped up with the late winner.
The win will paper over a lot of cracks but will give Town a much-needed boost of confidence and, of course, the three vital points.
If it had finished scoreless, more would have been made of a midfield bereft of ideas, although Magilton, on his 300th Town appearances, did pull strings for a while before being snuffed out.
Town still suffer from a toothless attack, although at least Forster got stuck in, and real moments of quality were rare, as Danny Haynes worked hard but with little effect.
Currie's arrival stirred up things a little and almost released Dean Bowditch, while Sito and Naylor tried to force in one of his corners.
Town fans booed when Bowditch was taken off but he had not really imposed himself, although was furious when he helped Forster reach the by-line only to see the striker try and shoot from an acute angle, rather than pass back to him in a good position.
Not a good game, not a convincing performance but it was a clean sheet and three points and a glimmer of light shining at the end of a long tunnel.