Football: Double de Bilde keeps Owls afloat

Sheffield Wednesday 2 De Bilde pen 56, 78 Watford 2 Ngonge 21, Page 59 Half-time: 0-1 Attendance: 21,658
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The Independent Online
A POINT was not much good to either of the Premiership's bottom clubs with winter approaching and the struggle to clamber out of the relegation mire gets more difficult.

But at least the Watford manager, Graham Taylor, drew some comfort from a match which showed that both sides are precisely where they deserve to be. "After seven weeks of losing we've got a point. We've broken the run," he said. "I was pleased with the way we approached the game and kept our spirit. It was vital that we ended the run of losses."

And it might have proved to be Watford's first victory since 18 September had Charlie Miller's late drive not struck a defender's boot on the line.

Watford, at least, showed determination even if flair and skill were in short supply. Their opponents merely demonstrated that something drastic must be done at Hillsborough, even if it is unlikely to be the resignation of the board, which a group of Wednesday's disaffected supporters made clear was their preferred option.

But at least Wednesday managed to score, something they achieved in only one of their nine previous Premiership matches. Twice they came from behind through their most positive player Gilles de Bilde. While most of his colleagues displayed a lack of confidence bred by their poor start to the season, the Belgian international striker put his head down and tried to get behind the defence whenever he received the ball.

He was usually seeking to retrieve a game which Wednesday's nervous defenders seemed intent on throwing away. They never came to terms with the pace and mobility of Watford's strikers Michel Ngonge and Nordin Wooter, and it was the former who drew first blood when he rounded off a neat one- two with Miller on 21 minutes.

De Bilde equalised from the penalty spot after Robert Page was judged to have handled Peter Atherton's long throw, but goals come so rarely for the Owls they have probably forgotten that a side is at its most vulnerable when they have just scored. Within two minutes Page made amends for his transgression. Nobody picked him up as he drifted in at the far post to meet Micah Hyde's free kick and record his first league goal.

But de Bilde's persistence was rewarded again when he turned the Watford defence to score with a low drive with 10 minutes remaining. Even then, his colleagues did their best to negate his efforts, Andy Hinchcliffe's mis-hit back pass having to be scrambled off the line.

The Wednesday manager, Danny Wilson, said: "Nobody gets relegated in November and we have enough quality to pull ourselves out of it." His beleaguered chairman, Dave Richards, gave him a vote of confidence but nothing more.