Football: Wednesday's forward progress comes to a halt

Sheffield Wednesday 0 Southampton 0
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The Independent Online
THERE WAS a time when you only had to shout down the nearest pit shaft if you needed a centre-forward in South Yorkshire. The pits have all closed now and you can't get a goal-scorer for love nor money. Just ask Sheffield Wednesday's manager, Danny Wilson.

With Paolo di Canio suspended until Christmas and his other established strikers having failed to score all season, he has been scouring the country and making the odd excursion across the Channel in search of someone who can put the ball in the net, to no avail.

"I can't get a positive reaction from any of the clubs I'm talking to," he said after his side's second consecutive goalless draw and their fourth match without scoring. "It is a waiting game."

There is a limit, however, to how long Wednesday can afford to wait as the clubs behind them, like Southampton, gain ground and suck them closer to the relegation zone.

The Saints manager Dave Jones was content to have ground out another point from a match which, like the weather, produced just the odd gleam of sunshine through the pervading gloom. "We deserved a draw. We played some good stuff and if we had taken our chances we might have won," he said. "We are slowly getting it together. The players who were not playing well are now beginning to perform, and we were strong in central defence and in midfield."

In front of goal, however, they suffered from the same shortcomings as their opponents. The best - some might say the only - chance of a forgettable encounter fell to Egil Ostenstad, but in trying to walk the ball round the Wednesday goalkeeper, Kevin Pressman, he allowed Andy Hinchcliffe to whip the ball off his toes.

It speaks volumes about Wednesday's problems that Hinchcliffe can be their last line of defence and also their most potent attacker when he ventures forward from wing back.

Matthew Le Tissier's only memorable contribution was a little back-heel which trickled the wrong side of the post, and Carlton Palmer was Southampton's most impressive player.

But with Wilson's own fans on his back rather than on his side, it can only be a matter of time before he is forced to sign someone to fill Di Canio's boots.

Sheffield Wednesday (4-4-2): Pressman; Atherton, Thome, Walker, Hinchcliffe; Alexandersson, Jonk, Sonner (Sannetti, 75), Briscoe (Rudi, 57); Booth, Humphreys. Substitutes not used: Newsome, Clarke (gk), Magilton.

Southampton (4-4-2): Jones; Hiley, Monkou, Lundekvam, Benali; Ripley, Palmer, Hughes, Bridge; Le Tissier, Ostenstad. Substitutes not used: Moss (gk), Beattie, Bradley, Dryden, Kachloul.

Referee: M Riley (Leeds).

Bookings: Southampton: Hughes.

Attendance: 30,078.

Man of the match: Hinchcliffe.