High-flying Owls are in the money – and in luck too
Sheffield Wednesday 1 Leyton Orient 0
Sunday 10 October 2010
Numerologists assure us that the once-in-a-century date 10.10.10 is a strong moment of rebirth. Sheffield Wednesday launched their renaissance 24 hours early, news of a £2m down-payment on a probable takeover being followed by a win over Leyton Orient that lifted them into the League One play-off zone.
Centre-back Lewis Buxton headed the goal which gave Alan Irvine's side a flattering victory after lowly Orient outplayed them, especially in the first half. Irvine admitted the home dressing-room was "like a morgue" afterwards because the players "knew they didn't play as they can". However, 17,000 long-suffering fans will have departed as they arrived, buoyed by the prospect of a new dawn at Hillsborough.
During the build-up to the match, Howard Wilkinson, the former Wednesday manager who is now chairman, made the announcement Wednesdayites craved. One of the interested consortiums – believed to be fronted by another former manager, Chris Turner, and using Middle East oil money – had advanced the club £2m to kick-start the process of regime change.
Wednesday, who were in the Premier League as recently as 2000, are £27m in debt and due in the High Court on 17 November to face a winding-up order from Her Majesty's Customs & Revenue over £600,000 in unpaid PAYE. Wilkinson, who returned to his first love after leading Leeds to the League title and holding the England manager's job on a caretaker basis, said the payment would "deal with immediate cash-flow difficulties", particularly with regard to the taxman.
While declining to confirm Turner's involvement, or reveal the identity of the potential investors he has brought to Hillsborough, Wilkinson said: "This is the first time in my memory that any potential investor has actually put some cash on the table. Now we can actually start thinking about the future, not just the present, and certainly not the past."
Pronouncing himself "pleased and relieved" by developments, Wilkinson added: "I'm very happy we've managed to get where we are. We're not absolutely there yet, but this is a terrific sign. There are legal formalities and issues to deal with, but everyone is comfortable that these things won't be a problem."
Wilkinson expected to see "bigger smiles on people's faces" at the ground, yet the feelgood factor was sorely tested during a first half in which Orient belied their relegation-zone status to carve Wednesday open at regular intervals. Nicky Weaver, the goalkeeper who fulfilled a boyhood ambition by scoring in front of the Kop to settle the midweek shoot-out with Chesterfield in the Johnstone's Paints Trophy, reverted to his day job to deny Sean Revell and Dean Cox, while the former Orient captain Darren Purse cleared off the line from Cox.
Wednesday could not break down an Orient side who often pulled nine men behind the ball before striking on the counter-attack. They threatened only once before and after the goal, when Gary Teale cut in from the left and forced Lee Butcher to parry, and were booed off at half-time.
The mood on the pitch belatedly matched the optimism off it in the 52nd minute. From Teale's corner, four home players formed a queue around the penalty spot. When the ball reached the far post, one of the fast-dispersing quartet, Buxton, converted a downward header.
James O'Connor promptly cleared off the line from Terrell Forbes in an almighty scramble. When the same player survived a penalty appeal after blocking Stephen Dawson's shot with a hand, Hillsborough sensed that this, clearly, was Wednesday's Saturday.
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