On an afternoon that began with Pleat obliged to talk down stories of an unsettled Frenchman in his side's midst, the manager ended by praising the talents of two Italians, whose late goals turned a match that had been slipping away from him. With Everton poised to sneak off with the points, Benito Carbone headed Wednesday in front with 11 minutes left and added a second from the spot two minutes later. Danny Cadamarteri replied for Everton, but Paolo di Canio made sure it was Pleat's in the closing seconds.
Until then, the fare had been as one could imagine at this level, a meeting of two sides with mediocrity in common. Mistakes abounded, chances were rare, although Wednesday had a marvellous opportunity after 35 minutes when Wayne Collins embarrassed himself by shooting into the Everton fans at the Leppings Lane end with only Paul Gerrard to beat.
The quick feet of John Oster and Danny Cadamarteri, two of three Everton teenagers, worried Wednesday's suspect defence, which was still lacking Peter Atherton and Jon Newsome from Pleat's long list of injured players. Everton brought on Nick Barmby to liven up matters in the second half and, after an hour, despite a bad miss by Cadamarteri, the visitors were on top, with only Kevin Pressman's reflexes keeping the game level.
Against expectations, however, it was Everton who were caught napping when Di Canio sent Lee Briscoe away on an overlapping run along the left. The substitute crossed to the near post and Carbone nipped in front of everyone to nod home.
Two minutes later, Di Canio found his legs entangled in Paul Gerrard's arms in the Everton penalty area and the invitation to go over was irresistible. Carbone scored from the spot.
Everton's spirits picked up when Cadamarteri slid home Barmby's pass by way of an immediate counter-blow and, in a breathless finale, no one was more relieved than Pleat to see Di Canio put the result beyond doubt. Played through by David Hirst, the Italian turned one way and the other to leave Andy Hinchcliffe in a heap before flicking the ball past Gerrard.
Earlier, as if worrying about his own future was not enough, Pleat had called a press conference, in the company of the club chairman Dave Richards and the defender Patrick Blondeau, following reports that the pounds 1.8m French international was anxious to leave Hillsborough.
Quotes had been attributed to the former Monaco player in which he regretted moving to "a dark, industrial city" and to a team where "tactically, nothing made sense", adding that "if it continues I will lose all my footballing skills". Blondeau, who missed this game through suspension, stopped short yesterday of likening Sheffield to Rouen or Pleat to Mario Zagalo, but insisted he was as happy with his new surroundings as his Italian team- mates seemed yesterday.Reuse content