Football: Palmer relives times of old

Sheffield Wednesday 0 Southampton 0 Attendance: 30,078
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The Independent Online
WHAT WAS billed as a relegation six-pointer, perhaps inevitably, ended with both sides having to be content with just one, but at least Southampton extended their unbeaten run to three games.

The boos rang round Hillsborough after Wednesday's fourth consecutive failure to trouble the scoreboard, and must have confirmed what their manager, Danny Wilson, has known ever since Paolo Di Canio's notorious departure from the same stadium five weeks ago. With the Italian banned until Boxing Day, a striker has to be top of his pre-Christmas shopping list.

Wednesday gave 10,000 tickets away to local schoolchildren to fill the wide open spaces this less than attractive fixture would have left in the stands. It was certainly not the sort of encounter to pay good money to see, nor an object lesson to the young in how the beautiful game should be played.

It began brightly enough, but then the Wednesday strikers Andy Booth and Ritchie Humphreys had ample incentive for seeking an early goal. Both have been firing blanks all season and the damage the lack of goals has done to their confidence was clear on the rare occasions when chances arrived.

Humphreys wriggled to the byline only to shoot tamely into the arms of Southampton goalkeeper Paul Jones, while Booth found himself in the right place to convert a Niclas Alexandersson cross but failed to control the ball and allowed Jones to smother the chance.

Southampton were content to counter-attack, with Mark Hughes bringing a diving save from Kevin Pressman and Matthew Le Tissier flicking a little back-heel just wide of the post. Pressman almost presented them with a goal when a fluffed clearance went straight to a Southampton player, although given that it was the former Wednesday midfielder Carlton Palmer, Pressman was presumably confident that the danger was minimal.

Nevertheless, it was South-ampton who came closest to breaking the deadlock when Egil Ostenstad raced clear with only the goalkeeper to beat, but delayed his shot too long and allowed Andy Hinchcliffe to recover to make a saving tackle

Palmer again relived old times, demonstrating the myopia in front of goal that Hillsborough knows so well when he met a Wayne Bridge cross on the far post and steered his header wide.

But Wednesday's shortcomings are not limited to their front players. With the other Italian, Benito Carbone, still injured, they also lack creative flair which even the return of Petter Rudi as a second-half substitute failed to provide.

Their increasingly desperate search for a goal resulted in no more than Alexandersson curling a 20-yard effort over the bar and Wim Jonk driving a shot into the side netting.

"We played some good stuff and built on our excellent result at Arsenal," the Southampton manager, Dave Jones, said.

Wilson, meanwhile, had little choice but to state the obvious: "Our problems is that we are not scoring goals but I am not going to buy a striker in haste. We have to be patient."

But he, more than anyone, must know time is running out.