Hirst in prime spot

Sheffield Wednesday 2 Hirst pen 14, pen 50 Southampton 2 Heaney 7, Magilton pen 80 Attendance: 25,115
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The Independent Online
THERE were almost enough penalties at Hillsborough yesterday for a rugby union match. Despite the protests which accompanied all three of them they were clear-cut decisions and also did the service of enlivening a match which was usually some way from enthralling. They allowed Sheffield Wednesday to equalise, then to take the lead and finally Southampton to gain a point which was rapidly slipping from their grasp.

It was an earnest, unfestive sort of match. Wednesday had the gifted ball players on show (not to mention pounds 4.5m of Yugoslav talents on the substitutes' bench) and while Marc Degryse and Chris Waddle both had their delightful moments they failed to make a sustained impression.

Southampton went ahead after six minutes with the only goal of the four from open play. Wednesday, coming off the back of a 6-2 win against Leeds and having scored 16 goals in five league matches, were peculiarly leaden- footed. A cross from the 18-year-old Matthew Oakley was knocked on to a post by Neil Shipperley and Neil Heaney tapped in the rebound.

Within 10 minutes Wednesday were level when Richard Hall handled an innocuous enough cross from Lee Briscoe. David Hirst scored. For much of the rest of the half Wednesday constructed some splendid movements while not quite coming to terms with the five-man midfield confronting them. But in the 55th minute Hall, hardly shouldering his acting captain's responsibilities with aplomb, pulled back Mark Bright. He aired his grievances and the booking was inevitable as was Hirst's goal, despite Dave Beasant's touch.

There was a chance for Wednesday to secure the points when Degryse sent Briscoe down the left. Hirst's header from the resultant cross squeezed narrowly wide. Southampton got their penalty when Ian Nolan tripped Oakley. Jim Magilton rounded off the move.

Wednesday brought on Darko Kovacevic, the striking half of their duo recently signed from Red Star Belgrade, to try andmake a breakthrough in the final 10 minutes, but he could shed no more light on proceedings.