Degryse heightens Southampton's relegation fears

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The Independent Online
Southampton 0 Sheffield Wednesday 1

At the start of proceedings at The Dell last night both sides were embroiled in the relegation struggle. By the close, Sheffield Wednesday had entered what passes for bright sunny uplands - 10 points clear of the pack - at this stage of their season, Southampton were plunged further into darkness.

With only one win in 14 matches, the Hampshire club have only nine left to avoid dropping from the top division for the first time in 18 years. Their fortunes, as ever, may yet depend on Matthew Le Tissier but his form last night was, as it has been throughout this season, fitful and peripheral. There were neat touches but nothing of substance.

Wednesday made matters easy for themselves by scoring after 65 seconds, punishing a dreadful lapse at the heart of the Southampton defence. Marc Degryse was unmarshalled and seemingly unwatched as he slid into the danger area and glided on to John Sheridan's ball through. He took it confidently to the right and found the gap at Dave Beasant's near post.

Wednesday controlled the rest of the half and most of the match thereafter. They might have increased their lead within a minute had a cross from the influential Dutchman, Regi Blinker, not narrowly eluded Guy Whittingham. A flowing movement of six uninterrupted passes from one area to the other, ending in Beasant making a smart save to keep out a Blinker header, characterised the balance of power.

Southampton, largely bereft of invention and endeavour, had the wit to press forward with due alacrity as the match wore on, but the renewed purpose was not matched by much forward quality.

Steve Nicol and Des Walker controlled matters at Wednesday's rear. Gordon Watson forced Chris Woods to save at his right-hand post with some 15 minutes left, but that was the sum of the possession which Wednesday permitted South- ampton for much of the second half.

In their past 12 visits to The Dell Wednesday have not lost. By denying Southampton again last night they may have ensured that they do not have to return to defend that record at least next season.

Southampton (4-4-2): Beasant; Dodd, Hall (Robinson, h-t), Monkou, Charlton; Le Tissier, Magilton, Venison, Widdrington; Watson, Shipperley (Warren, 83). Substitute not used: Tisdale.

Sheffield Wednesday (4-5-1): Woods; Nicol, Newsome, Walker, Briscoe; Whittingham, Sheridan, Degryse, Pembridge, Blinker (Hyde, h-t); Hirst (Kovacevic, 83). Substitute not used: Watts.

Referee: M Bodenham (Looe).