A Lomas lifeline

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The Independent Online
Sheffield Wednesday 1

Hirst 14 pen

Manchester City 1

Lomas 55

Attendance: 24,422

THE omens were not good. The Premiership's two lowest-scoring teams met in a chilling snowy wind. Someone in the Kop end had even brought a death-knell drum to mourn the lack of chances. Manchester City created just two all game. Sheffield Wednesday managed three. Yet City will take heart from their first away point this season and from the sturdy performance that earned it.

It came after Wednesday opened brightly, with Andy Sinton speeding infectiously down the left and Chris Waddle measuring a couple of delightful passes. In the ninth minute, Marc Degryse's shot was palmed out by Eike Immel to David Hirst who, faced with an open goal, could only hit the post.

Four minutes later, Andy Pearce's halfway-line hoof came down on Degryse's foot and the Belgian international was grappled down by Keith Curle. Hirst rifled the resulting spot-kick past Immel.

But that 13th-minute penalty proved a mixed blessing for Wednesday. The passion and fluency disappeared from their game as City slowly began to haul themselves around. Niall Quinn - whose fourth-minute header, superbly saved by Kevin Pressman, was City's only first-half chance - proved a willing target man.

Gradually, Garry Flitcroft, Nick Summerbee and Steve Lomas tried playing intelligent passing football, and the crab-like Georgiou Kinkladze (he only goes sideways) proved he could elude anybody in midfield.

City's equaliser, then, came as no surprise. In the 53rd minute Quinn seized on some sloppy defending, dragged the ball to the by-line and chipped for Lomas to head gleefully home.

Yet despite their second-half dominance, City were unable to fashion another clear-cut chance. Indeed, Hirst's bullet of a header on a rare Wednesday forward excursion was the only other opening of the half.

A relieved Alan Ball said afterwards: "I am chuffed with the way my team is handling this position, and now there is something for a manager to build on."

At the end of the game, the drum in the Kop end had been silenced and the bell being tolled in the City end no longer had such a funereal ring to it.