Owls rue lack of killer instinct

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The Independent Online

According to the sign outside the Con Brio espresso bar in Division Street, Sheffield was mourning the departure of Benito Carbone yesterday. "Beni's Gone - Wednesday Bereavement Sale," it announced. Across town, the Owls were alive and kicking at Hillsborough without the new Villan. They were, however, guilty of passing up a golden opportunity to close the gap at the foot of the Premiership table.

According to the sign outside the Con Brio espresso bar in Division Street, Sheffield was mourning the departure of Benito Carbone yesterday. "Beni's Gone - Wednesday Bereavement Sale," it announced. Across town, the Owls were alive and kicking at Hillsborough without the new Villan. They were, however, guilty of passing up a golden opportunity to close the gap at the foot of the Premiership table.

The point they gained at least maintained their revival since the eight goal hammering they suffered at St James' Park five weeks ago. But Danny Wilson's boys ought to have claimed the three that would have put them level with Newcastle on the bottom perch. A combination of poor finishing and a second-half performance of markedly less assurance than the first conspired to keep Wednesday stuck in the catch-up zone.

The presence of Carlton Palmer in the opposition ranks yesterday was a reminder not just of better days for Wednesday, the spiderman midfielder having helped the Owls to the heights of three Wembley finals and a Uefa Cup campaign, but of the dire financial straits in which they are struggling to operate. It was the Wednesday board's failure to find the £250,000 required to take the one-time international back to Hillsborough that prompted his loan move from Nottingham Forest to Coventry.

Not that Wilson has a poverty of talent in his team. Far from it, in fact. The sublime sweeping pass with which Wim Jonk sent Gilles de Bilde bearing down on the Coventry goal in the seventh minute was straight out of the Ajax academy. Unfortunately for Wednesday, the finishing school their Belgian striker attended was not quite so polished, de Bilde hesitating long enough to allow Magnus Hedman to deflect his shot wide.

The Owls, however, proceeded to clip their opponents from the wings, Niclas Alexandersson twice cutting in from the right and firing fractionally wide and Petter Rudi probing purposefully on the left. De Bilde and Andy Booth also toiled to good effect in the middle, though the latter was guilty of squandering a gilt-edged chance as half-time approached, being dispossessed by Paul Telfer as he pondered where to place his shot. The visitors, by contrast, were so quiet in the opening half they might have been sent back to Coventry, although Moustapha Hadji did send the ball smacking off the Wednesday crossbar with a bolt from the sky blue.

The prospect of a little help from Pavel Srnicek always offered hope for Gordon Strachan's side and when the less than assured Czech flapped at a Steve Froggatt cross 12 minutes into the second half Coventry finally emerged from their shell. Gary McAllister, Cedric Rousel and Palmer all headed narrowly off target as City assumed control. Alexandersson might have stolen victory at the death but it was no surprise when his shot cannoned off Hedman's legs. It was not Wednesday's day.

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