Football: Wizard Waddle makes West Ham wobble

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The Independent Online
Sheffield Wednesday. . . . . .5

Marsh og 35, Bright 47, Waddle 51,

Jemson 72, Palmer 87

West Ham United. . . . . . . .0

Attendance: 26,350

IN THE depths of an English season, the sight of two teams who are willing to pass the ball and play attractive football offers a little cheer. And the fact that, after shaky starts, these are two of the most improved sides in the Premiership shows that entertaining football can pay dividends.

But as the Hammers found to their cost, possession is only nine-tenths of the law. You also need someone with the flair and vision to do the unpredictable, break up the neat patterns and alter the course of a match.

Not that there is anything unpredictable about Chris Waddle. You can generally rely on him to do just that. He scored one magnificently struck goal himself and was crucially involved in another three.

Indeed, his dribble into the box to set up Nigel Jemson for the fourth goal showed such breathtaking audacity and skill that it had even hardened hacks in the press box on their feet applauding.

Waddle's mesmerising runs down the right flank and Carlton Palmer's forays from midfield had West Ham back-pedalling from the start, and it took some desperate defending to keep Wednesday at bay for 35 minutes.

Then Waddle won a corner from which the centre-back Andy Pearce's powerful header came back off the crossbar to hit Mike Marsh and trickle over the line. Under mounting pressure, West Ham did their best to keep their shape and stick to their footballing principles. Their one-touch game flickered sporadically into life, but too often faded with the faulty connection of misplaced passes.

Wednesday matched them as passers of the ball and Waddle's ability to hold it up and run at defenders left the Hammers revival in tatters.

Only one goal behind at half-time, they bravely pushed men forward in support of Lee Chapman, a lonely figure up front on his return to Hillsborough. But in doing so they left the back door open and Wednesday gratefully stampeded through it.

Waddle's perfectly-weighted pass allowed Mark Bright to run into space for Wednesday's second, he scored the third himself with a 25-yard drive into the bottom corner and Palmer finished it off when he latched on to Roland Nilsson's through ball and calmly rounded Ludek Miklosko to score from a tight angle.