Football: McGrath in charge

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The Independent Online
Sheffield Wednesday. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

Aston Villa. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

A GOALESS draw here was a longer shot than an England win at The Oval. Wednesday have spent a fortune on improving their defence. Villa still have the peerless Paul McGrath at the heart of theirs and, with forwards forced to give second best, a thoroughly entertaining match was left with just about everything bar a positive outcome.

Villa had the better of it but were denied by a contentious off- side decision and the refusal of a penalty, both at Dean Saunders' expense. They deserved a second victory in five days, but will not be too displeased with four points from their first two games.

Des Walker needed all his saving pace to keep last season's runners-up at bay. After his sad sojourn in Italy, it must be sweet music to his ears to hear a home crowd again giving voice to that old anthem, warning all comers that he will never be beaten.

Beaten no, but last night he was shaded by McGrath, who continues to have his problems off the field, but never seems to encounter any on it. Chris Waddell might have tested him, but a back injury again kept him out.

Villa had an edge from the start, Daley, Dalian Atkinson and Kevin Richardson all testing Chris Woods during a bristling opening onslaught. Wednesday had to work hard to get a hold on the game, and no one worked harder than Carlton Palmer.

His sending-off against Liverpool had Trevor Francis urging him to 'be calm - like Linford Christie'. Saturday's assault on Jan Molby had more in common with that other Christie, late of 10 Rillington Place, but this time the dark destroyer of the England midfield kept his aggression legitimate.

Villa created the real openings, notably when Saunders drove the ball home, only to be frustrated by a late, and highly dubious, off- side decision. Adding insult to injury, the referee then failed to spot the blatant push with which Pearce toppled the Welshman on the edge of the box.

Late on, John Sheridan summed it up by blasting over with the target gaping, and a good game was condemned to a disappointing conclusion because the men whose job it is to score were out-thought and out-fought by those detailed to prevent them.

Sheffield Wednesday (4-4-2): Woods; Nilsson, Pearce, Walker, King; Hyde, Palmer, Sheridan, Worthington; Warhurst, Hirst (Bright, 85). Substitutes not used: Bart-Williams, Pressman (gk).

Aston Villa (4-4-2): Spink; Barrett, Teale, McGrath, Staunton,; Daley, Richardson, Townsend (Cowans, 28), Froggatt; Saunders, Atkinson. Substitutes not used: Whittingham, Bosnich (gk).

Referee: P Foakes (Colchester).

Cork fight back, page 40

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