Football: Wright's boldness masks tale of tedium

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The Independent Online
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Sheffield Wednesday . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

FAMILIARITY breeds contempt and the Arsenal crowd, one way or another, certainly showed their contempt yesterday, not only for this particular saga but also their team's latest drone-like performance which not even a stoppage time winner by you-know-who could salvage.

The cheers for Ian Wright's 20th goal of the season 75 seconds into injury-time, when he slotted home after Alan Smith's flick-on, immediately turned to jeers as the smallest Highbury crowd of the season made known its displeasure at the quality of fare their side are serving up these days. Who said winning was all that mattered.

Just about Wright's only kick of the match maintained par for a very boring course; this was the seventh game between these two sides in 16 months and every one of them has been settled by the odd goal. Significantly, perhaps, it was also Arsenal's fifth win to Wednesday's one.

Yet the first defeat in 14 games for a Wednesday team minus Chris Waddle and Andy Sinton - to name but two - was ill-deserved and would have been comfortably avoided had it not been for some inspired goalkeeping by Alan Miller, performing in only his fifth League game in seven years as stand-in for the suspended David Seaman.

But if Miller took the bouquet, or rather the champers, there were brickbats aplenty to be distributed elsewhere, not least to Mark Bright and Nigel Jemson committing the cardinal sin of not putting this game out of its misery earlier. Both passed up on a couple of first-rate chances.

The first and last third of the game belonged to Wednesday for whom Chris Bart-Williams and Roland Nilsson, playing his penultimate game before a very premature retirement, gave praiseworthy performances. In between, Arsenal had their moments and the best of them seemed to belong to Anders Limpar but in the end he flattered to deceive.

Such sparks of originality, however, were at a premium as they have been throughout this tedious saga. One can only pray they steer well clear of each other in the FA Cup. Even the Arsenal fans, for all their Wembley oneupmanship, seem to have had their fill of it, judging by the way a raffle going on outside the ground for the autographed plastercast of Coca-Cola Cup hero, Steve Morrow, got the elbow.

Arsenal (4-4-2): Miller; Dixon, Adams, Keown (Bould, 56), Morrow; Limpar, Selley, Jensen, Merson (Campbell, 79); Wright, Smith. Substitute not used: Will (gk)

Sheffield Wednesday (4-4-2): Pressman; Nilsson, Walker, Palmer, Coleman; Bart-Williams (Pearce, 90), Hyde, Jones, Worthington; Jemson (Poric, 79), Bright.

Referee: D Gallagher (Banbury).