Aston Villa 3 Sheffield Wednesday 2
Sheffield Wednesday's awayday woes continue. Two debut strikes by Regi Blinker, their flamboyant new winger from Feyenoord, were not enough to ease their relegation worries at Villa Park, Savo Milosevic answering with his first goals in 14 Premiership games before Andy Townsend struck Aston Villa's late winner.
It was an important victory for Villa, coming hard on the heels of Sunday's chastening defeat at Anfield and less than three weeks before the Coca- Cola Cup final. After reaching Wembley in the same competition two years ago, under Ron Atkinson, Villa's League form dipped, and for the first hour last night Brian Little's side were in danger of becoming Wednesday's first away victims since October.
For Wednesday, a sixth defeat in seven games pushes them deeper into the mire, four points clear of the bottom three, but having played more matches than most of the clubs below them.
Perversely, the optimists among Wednesday's following may have come away with hope renewed. If so, it would have been because of the impact of Blinker, a Dutch international for whom David Pleat has paid an undisclosed fee believed to be around pounds 1m. Less than a week after arriving in England, he gave them a different dimension with his clever touch play, and scarcely deserved to finish a loser.
Blinker's dreadlocks, flapping like a superhero's cape, make Ruud Gullit look follically challenged by comparison. Chelsea's Dutch master would certainly have been proud, though, to claim his opening goal, which came in the eighth minute.
Weaving past three defenders as he cut in from the left along the dead- ball line, Blinker nonchalantly chipped Mark Bosnich from a prohibitive angle as colleagues and opponents alike anticipated a pass into the six- yard area.
If Mark Pembridge had made stronger contract with Chris Waddle's low cross 10 minutes later, Villa have might have been facing another rout. Instead the Welshman nudged the ball against a post, allowing Bosnich to gather as it trickled along the line. Further near misses from Waddle, Darco Kovacevic and Peter Atherton left Wednesday defending the slenderest of leads.
A wild clearance from Steve Nicol, which flew over his own bar, hinted at their capacity for panic. When Lee Briscoe ludicrously attempted something similar in the 61st minute, Milosevic headed his first goal since December as the ball dropped beneath the bar. Wednesday were still reeling from the folly of it all when the Serbian bundled in another as Chris Woods hesitated under pressure from Dwight Yorke.
Blinker restored parity two minutes later with an opportunist volley after Guy Whittingham - possibly playing his last match before joining Birmingham - had seen a shot blocked. Villa, however, were not finished, and clinched the points with 15 minutes remaining. Yorke, playing a back- heeled pass of the kind only Blinker had hitherto attempted, released Townsend on the left. The Villa captain burst into the penalty area before beating Woods with an angled drive worthy of settling any contest.
Aston Villa (3-4-1-2): Bosnich; Ehiogu, McGrath, Scimeca; Charles, Southgate, Townsend, Wright; Joachim; Milosevic, Yorke. Substitutes not used: Hendrie, Farrelly, Oakes (gk).
Sheffield Wednesday (4-5-1): Woods; Nolan (Nicol, 23), Atherton, Walker, Briscoe; Waddle, Hyde (Degryse, 88), Whittingham, Pembridge, Blinker; Kovacevic (Humphreys, 76).
Referee: D Elleray (Harrow-on-the-Hill).
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