Football: Di Canio has the last word

Southampton 2 Hirst 48, Palmer 55 Sheffield Wednesday 3 Atherto n 28, Collins 69, Di Canio 84 Attendance: 15,244
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The Independent Online
Ron Atkinson saw his Sheffield Wednesday honeymoon extended yesterday, but not before two familiar faces from the past had scored goals to put Southampton ahead and threaten to spoil his party.

The match was going nowhere until the 26th minute, when the ex-Saint Jim Magilton took a corner for Wednesday and Jon Newsome flicked the ball on to Peter Atherton, who scored. It was one of very few chances in a half where neither side had the either the space to create anything - all 20 outfield players were sandwiched in a narrow space in the middle of the pitch - nor the apparent will to try.

The second half could not have been more different. Three minutes after the restart, Matt Le Tissier took possession in the Wednesday box, trapped the ball with his foot and stepped aside to allow an incoming David Hirst to lash the equaliser into the net. It was a sweet moment for the former Owl and, eight minutes later, a player from a previous Atkinson administration at Hillsborough, Carlton Palmer, gave Southampton the lead.

As Jason Dodd ran the ball out of his own half, he looked up to see Palmer pointing ahead. Dodd obliged with an inch-perfect feed, and Palmer, taking one touch to control the ball, lashed a fierce looping shot into the top left corner.

Southampton began to look as if they may win with some ease, but further pressure from Hirst and Kevin Davies came to nothing. Then Wednesday produced two goals to snatch the game.

The first, with 20 minutes left, saw the ever-tenacious Paolo Di Canio pick out the substitute Wayne Collins, who completed a well-timed run to beat Paul Jones in the Saints goal.

Then Di Canio himself, with six minutes left, produced a goal to match Palmer's earlier effort when he capitalised on a Francis Benali defensive error.

Dave Jones, the Southampton manager, said: "I think our players thought they'd done enough and didn't keep the door shut." His counterpart attributed Wednesday's renaissance to tightening up their defence in the past few weeks and making chances for their capable strikers. Atkinson was even magnanimous enough to praise Hirst and Palmer. "I was glad to see those two score," he said. Adding only: "The bastards."