Football: Bleak Wednesday

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The Independent Online
Sheffield Wednesday 1

Rudi 51

Coventry City 2

McAllister pen 19, Whelan 84

Half-time: 0-1 Attendance: 28,136

BOTH THESE sides have flirted with relegation often enough to know that you can't afford to make silly mistakes this late in the season. But Wednesday made two, both when they looked to have seized control of the match, and it was enough to allow Coventry to close the gap on them to one point and set the alarm bells ringing at Hillsborough again.

Danny Wilson's new strike formation of Richie Humphreys and his pounds 1 million signing from York, Richard Cresswell, with Benito Carbone playing in the hole behind them, had pegged Coventry back in their own half for the opening 18 minutes before the defender Emerson Thome made the first blunder.

Thome's under-powered back pass to Pavel Srnicek rolled into the path of Coventry striker Darren Huckerby and the goalkeeper brought him down in the area. Gary McAllister stroked home the penalty, which was also Coventry's first shot.

The goal inspired McAllister to take control of the midfield and his promptings could have led to Coventry increasing their lead as they belatedly found their stride before half-time and the defence, marshalled by the impressive Paul Williams, got on top of Wednesday's unfamiliar attack.

Carbone, however, is not content to see someone else hog the limelight for long, and his probing runs after the break wrested back the initiative for Wednesday. He won a corner on the right, Wim Jonk took it, Thome headed it back to the Italian and his spectacular bicycle kick fell to Norwegian midfielder Petter Rudi, who made up for two glaring first-half misses by bundling the ball over the line.

Although a draw would have suited them better than their rivals, Wednesday were looking the more likely winners when their defence went to sleep for a second time. Huckerby was allowed to run at them on the right and cross to Noel Whelan, who found himself in acres of space to tap in the 83rd-minute winner.

The Coventry manager, Gordon Strachan, was philosophical about a welcome win. "Neither team played at their best but we were the ones who got the breaks," he admitted. "That was the only difference between us."

Danny Wilson, the Sheffield Wednesday manager, commented: "The game was there to be won and we gave away two soft goals." Wednesday, who have been struggling to find their consistency all season, have now found the wrong sort at the wrong time.

This was their fifth successive defeat and Wilson added: "We still need two more wins to feel safe and after a defeat like this you wonder where the next win will come from." They will have their first opportunity at fellow-strugglers Everton tomorrow.