Football: Wright the hero in an instant

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The Independent Online
Sheffield Wednesday 0

West Ham United 1

Wright 84

Attendance: 30,236

FOR 84 minutes it looked as though the pace, motivation and poaching instincts of Ian Wright had got lost somewhere on the short journey across London from Highbury to Upton Park.

The striker, who is expected to provide the finishing touch to a West Ham side which narrowly failed to qualify for Europe last season, had looked lethargic and out of sorts, until Trevor Sinclair burst through the middle, splitting the Wednesday defence, and laid the ball off to Wright, who calmly placed it beyond Kevin Pressman's dive. Wright scored on his League debuts for Crystal Palace in 1985 and Arsenal in 1991 and he was not about to ruin his run.

The relief on the face of Wright and among the West Ham fans who have such high expectations of him was palpable, but for the man who made the equally short journey across South Yorkshire to occupy the manager's chair at Hillsborough it merely confirmed what the rest of this scrappy match had been promising. For Danny Wilson, keeping Wednesday in the Premiership this season may prove almost as difficult a struggle as the one that defeated him at Barnsley.

Wilson has inherited a side in which flashes of brilliance from his two Italians, Paolo Di Canio and Benito Carbone, failed to compensate for defensive frailties and the lack of a midfield playmaker.

On this showing, his first signings - Wim Jonk to boost his midfield and the Argentinian Juan Cobain to bolster his back four - have not made up for these failings.

Indeed, only the agility of Pressman, who blocked a Frank Lampard shot at point-blank range and acrobatically turned an Ian Pearce lob over the cross bar, saved Wilson from an even more miserable return to Sheffield. Despite the occasional skilful combination from the Italians and some patient approach work from Petter Rudi, Wednesday rarely rose above the mediocre and Andy Booth was woefully off target with the few chances that came his way.

West Ham's Lampard and Eyal Berkovic were the most creative players on view, and despite a late flurry in which Shaka Hislop denied Carbone, Wednesday never looked like negating Wright's late strike.