Football: Carbone papers over the cracks

Sheffield Wednesday 1 Carbone 78 Southampton 0 Attendance: 29 ,677
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THE only surprise about the deciding goal fashioned by Wednesday's Italian connection was that it took so long to arrive.

By the time Benito Carbone, aided and abetted by Paolo di Canio, scored the winner in the 79th minute, both they and the crowd were growing increasingly frustrated by the lack of any end result from all their activity.

Between them, they had created enough opportunities to have won the match several times over before Carbone's ball into the area, di Canio's bobbling lay-off and Carbone's right- footed shot set minds at ease.

The pattern was established from the start, one of the best chances of all falling to Mark Pembridge after the Italians had cut Southampton to shreds on the right flank. Pembridge was all alone, but his trusted left foot betrayed him completely.

The constant probing of the pair also yielded opportunities for Andy Booth, who had one shot blocked and one kicked over the bar before heading against the woodwork.

The impression was growing that if Wednesday were to win this game, an Italian would have to score the goal as well as instigate it, but Carbone had a low shot saved before his cross saw Dejan Stefanovic miscue across an empty six-yard box.

Against all this, the best that Southampton, who unlike Wednesday started the afternoon with the usual threat of relegation already removed, could manage was a couple of half openings for the bustling Egil Ostenstad.

"It was a sloppy performance from us from start to finish," said their manager, David Jones, who substituted Matthew LeTissier early in the second half. "If people aren't playing well, they don't deserve to be on the field and today any one of ten could have come off. I thought Wednesday looked nervous but we couldn't capitalise on that."

The home side were certainly becoming increasingly edgy as more chances came and went, Booth heading wide from a perfect cross from Carbone and di Canio having a fierce angled shot saved and another kicked over.

"We made an awful lot of chances and played some decent stuff," said the Wednesday manager Ron Atkinson. "But you're always anxious that they can snatch one on the break against you." That never really looked likely, but Atkinson still refuses to concede that his side is now safe from the threat of dropping out of the Premiership.

"But this result does give us a considerable advantage over a lot of teams below us," he said.