Carefree Wednesday just keep the worries away

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The Independent Online
Sheffield Wednesday 2 Wimbledon 1

February can be a dangerous month for clubs whose interest in the Cup competitions has ended and who are a few points clear of the relegation zone. If they allow their concentration to slip, they risk finding that there is still something to play for as they are sucked into the survival scramble.

Wednesday are a case in point. The relaxed mood in which they began this match suggested that the only thing required of them as the last of the snow melted, was to go through the motions until the summer break.

With Wimbledon, whose own long-term defiance of football's law of gravity is starting to look rather precarious, often having more players in their own penalty area than they had supporters behind their goal, Wednesday's insouciant approach was hardly guaranteed to ensure the three home points they must take from such opposition to stay clear of trouble.

Misplaced passes, mis-hit crosses and miscued shots made it seem more like pinball than football, and although Wednesday's near monopoly of midfield possession was bound to produce a flow of chances, they were snatched at and squandered with almost reckless abandon. Darko Kovacevic could have had a hat-trick in the first 20 minutes, Guy Whittingham's surging runs ended in anticlimax and Marc Degryse, who looked the man most likely to score, contrived a close-range miss so blatant that he was left beating the turf in disbelief.

A goal finally arrived after 50 minutes, Degryse thumping Whittingham's knock-down into the top corner, but it merely served to sting Wimbledon into their more familiar bustle and aggression. Kevin Pressman twice had to save bravely from substitute Efan Ekoku before a neat move involving Dean Holdsworth and Robbie Earle caught Wednesday short at the back and Marcus Gayle, unmarked on the far post, equalised on the hour.

With Wimbledon sharper in the tackle and quick to intercept, and Wednesday still unable to inject any urgency into their play, there followed some worrying moments for a Sheffield crowd that has known both the City's clubs snatch relegation from the jaws of safety in the past few years. Ekoku and Jason Euell both wasted chances before Chris Waddle's free-kick picked out Julian Watts' head, and the substitute's first goal for Wednesday prompted a collective sigh of relief around Hillsborough.

Goals: Degryse (50) 1-0; Gayle (61) 1-1; Watts (84) 2-1.

Sheffield Wednesday (4-1-3-2): Pressman; Nolan, Atherton, Walker, Stefanovic (Watts, 80); Nicol; Hyde, Waddle (Platts, 85), Whittingham; Kovacevic, Degryse (Bright, 80).

Wimbledon (4-4-2): Sullivan; Cunningham, Pearce, Perry, Kimble; Gayle, Castledine (Euell, 51) , Earle, Leonhardsen; Harford (Ekoku, h-t), Holdsworth (Thorn, 88).

Referee: M Bodenham (Looe).

Bookings: Wimbledon: Holdsworth (86), Perry (89).

Man of the match: Degryse. Attendance: 19,085.

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