Football: Elliot piles on Wednesday's misery

Bolton Wanderers 1 Sheffield Wednesday 0
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The Independent Online
IT NEVER rains but it pours. As the heavens opened and the weather did its worst, Danny Wilson must have wished it was the ground that had given way last night and offered some respite in this dismal season of torment. The Sheffield Wednesday manager, though, endured a performance that saw his team dispatched from the Worthington Cup, a competition which has provided two of their three victories of so far this season.

Not that he should have any complaints; his assertion after this fourth- round tie that his side dominated sounded more like a dressing-room gee- up than a considered reflection. Bolton, now eight games undefeated, scored once, hit the woodwork twice and carved holes the size of Wednesday's overdraft into Wilson's often shambolic defensive line.

The desperate Sheffield surges towards the end put pressure on Bolton, whose determination and grit, instilled by Sam Allardyce, deserved its reward. But had Gilles De Bilde converted a late penalty - Jussi Jaaskelainen gathered the shot easily - then Wilson's gung-ho approach in the latter stages of the game might have eased some of the tension.

That said, it was a poor decision by the referee, Kevin Lynch, Petter Rudi falling under the daintiest of challenges by Hasney Aljofree, who had earlier made a clear but unpunished tug on Andy Booth as the striker dived to head goalwards. And anything other than defeat would have masked the considerable deficiencies in a side that, despite any excuse which the conditions might provide, were always second best.

The victory was secured for Bolton by their half-time substitute, Robbie Elliott, back from a hernia operation after a single training session, as he headed from close range after Eidur Gudjohnsen had fed him. He should have doubled the advantage in injury time when he chipped over Kevin Pressman only to see the shot hit the post.

"I expected this game to provide our toughest test," Allardyce said. "In many respects it was, but I feel we created the better chances. We are getting stronger and stronger and, while it was frantic at the end, we worked hard and got what we deserved. I am delighted with what we have achieved."

In a lively opening, both sides gave short shrift to the current vogue for demeaning the pursuit of this trophy. And, given the swirling, unpredictable gale coupled with sporadic but violent downpours, the contestants deserve commendation for keeping the entertainment level so high.

Bolton's Claus Jensen tested Kevin Pressman with a free-kick after just five minutes to set the tempo for the evening, but the Wednesday veteran was smart enough to tip the drive wide. Had Niclas Alexandersson shown the same presence of mind, Wednesday might have snatched an early goal to alleviate their gloom but, when a snap shot was called for, he dallied too long and was blocked.

Bolton Wanderers (4-4-2): Jaaskelainen; O'Kane (Holden, 78), Bergsson (Elliott, h-t), Fish, Whitlow; Johansen, Jensen, Aljofree, Gardner; Hansen (Taylor, 62), Gudjohnsen. Substitutes not used: Passi, Banks.

Sheffield Wednesday (4-4-2): Pressman; Nolan, Atherton, Walker (McKeever, 57) Hinchcliffe; Sibon (Sonner, 57), Alexandersson, Jonk, Rudi; De Bilde, Booth. Substitutes not used: Srnicek (gk), Thome, Cresswell.

Referee: K Lynch (York).