Football: Wednesday's away form holds the key

Sheffield Wednesday 3 Wimbledon 1
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The Independent Online

Sheffield Wednesday 3 Wimbledon 1

Sheffield Wednesday, beaten only once at home in the Premiership all season, must bank on maintaining their elevated position in three consecutive away matches if they are to have a chance of qualifying for Europe next season.

Wednesday are a point adrift of fifth-placed Aston Villa with a game in hand and David Pleat, their manager, said after this latest Hillsborough success: "We will certainly be disappointed if we finish lower than that now."

Pleat was indebted to O'Neill Donaldson, on his full Hillsborough debut, for an opening strike which provided the platform for a victory sealed by a brace of goals from the substitute, Orlando Trustfull.

It left Wimbledon facing up to the reality that a season which once promised unbridled glory will be rewarded with nothing more than memories following semi-final defeats in both cup competitions and a slide down the table, as the schedule of success has taken its toll.

Donaldson, who has started only two games since making a pounds 50,000 move from Doncaster Rovers two-and-a-half years ago - he scored on his full debut at Queen's Park Rangers last season - opened the scoring after 42 minutes, moments after Mark Pembridge had put wide a penalty given for handball by Alan Kimble.

Trustfull, only included as a substitute when Pleat had a last-minute change of heart, then struck twice in the space of five second-half minutes, before Jon Goodman netted a consolation for the visitors.

Yet, although their goals kept Wednesday on course for Europe, both Donaldson and Trustfull could leave Hillsborough in the summer, unless they are given guarantees by Pleat.

Pleat had words of encouragement for both players . "They are both very talented and in Donaldson especially there is a lot of confidence at the club in what he can do. But sometimes you need blood, sweat and toil in the cut-and-thrust of the Premiership."

Goals: Donaldson (42) 1-0; Trustfull (78) 2-0; Trustfull (83) 3-0; Goodman (85) 3-1.

Sheffield Wednesday (3-5-2): Pressman; Nicol, Stefanovic, Walker; Atherton, Carbone, Pembridge, Blinker (Trustfull, 63), Nolan; Whittingham, Donaldson. Substitutes not used: Oakes, Collins, Humphreys, Clarke (gk).

Wimbledon (4-4-2): Sullivan; Cunningham, Perry (Reeves 70), McAllister, Kimble; Ardley, Castledine, Leonhardsen (Euell, 76), Fear; Holdsworth, Gayle (Goodman, 76). Substitutes not used: Jupp, Heald (gk).

Referee: J T Winter (Stockton-on-Tees).

Booking: Wimbledon: McAllister.

Man of the match: Trustfull.

Attendance: 26,957.