Booth's strike boosts Wilson

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The Independent Online

If Danny Wilson could be granted one wish for his 40th birthday on New Year's Day, it would probably involve the millennium bug and the computer at Premier League headquarters that officially logs the top-flight table.

If Danny Wilson could be granted one wish for his 40th birthday on New Year's Day, it would probably involve the millennium bug and the computer at Premier League headquarters that officially logs the top-flight table.

Already semi-detached from the Premiership with six points from 17 games ­ seven fewer than Wilson's Barnsley boys had in the bag at the same stage of the 1997-98 season ­ Sheffield Wednesday and their manager are fast approaching the stage at which they will require the football equivalent of snookers to stay in the Premiership frame.

Unfortunately, there were no points to put on the board for sinking Bristol City at Hillsborough yesterday. Having tiptoed gingerly through the second-half, though, Wednesday were pleased enough to have safely negotiated what their manager described as a "banana skin" third-round FA Cup tie against Second Division opposition.

Andy Booth's 24th-minute header ultimately proved sufficient to overcome a spirited City, but a rare sighting of an Owls victory was tarnished in injury time when Alan Quinn, an 89th-minute substitute for Gilles de Bilde, was sent off for raising his arms against Shaun Taylor.

If 1999 was a bad year for Wilson, it has not been a vintage one for Tony Pulis. Few managers suffer as sickening a blow as he was dealt at Wembley in May when Paul Dickov's 95th-minute goal deprived Gillingham of promotion to the First Division. The fall-out from his dismissal continued yesterday as Pulis issued a writ claiming £400,000 in unpaid bonuses from Gillingham, and the Bristol City manager had more to worry about on the pitch.

By the 10th minute Wednesday, making good use of an experimental five-man midfield, were in control. Niclas Alexandersson proved a handful, his surging run setting up Booth for a 20-yard drive that was deflected just wide, and from Wim Jonk's corner the Swedish midfielder had a stinging, low drive stopped on the line by the legs of goalkeeper Billy Mercer.

Pulis's side did have their moments before Wednesday broke through. Ivan Tistime-tanu, the first Moldovan to play in England, was marginally off target with a thumping, long-range drive in the 19th minute.

Five minutes later, though, the west countrymen and their eastern European were playing catch-up. It was the simplest of goals, Jonk hoisting a cross from deep on the right and the unchallenged Booth applying the finishing touch with a header on the six-yard line.

Booth very nearly made it 2-0 with a glancing header before half-time and the single-goal advantage was looking vulnerable as Wednesday suffered a serious loss of momentum after the break. Brian Tinnion, whose left boot famously sank Liverpool in the FA Cup five years ago, fired an early-warning shot across the blue and white bows and Steve Torpey, Carl Hutchings and Scott Murray also had the Owls in a flutter. Wednesday, though, held on to their pride and their place in the Cup.

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