Pleat's pleasure

Sheffield Wednesday 2 Degryse 50, Watts 85 Wimbledon 1 Gayle 61 Attendance: 19,085
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The Independent Online
DAVID PLEAT, intent on securing a seventh home match without defeat for his Sheffield Wednesday side, had requested a display of heads and hearts from his players, and critical encouragement from the fans.

In the end, his plea was rewarded, although it was not until Chris Waddle's delightfully weighted free-kick in the 84th minute was met by the head of Julian Watts to win the match that the fans fulfilled their side of the bargain.

"I've got to admit I wouldn't have been so happy if we hadn't grabbed that second goal," Pleat said. "I would have been rueing those missed chances if we hadn't won. But I told the players at half-time that the missed chances didn't matter because more chances would come along. We had to stay positive."

The first half began slowly and settled immediately into a slumber, with Waddle adopting a Geoff Boycott role, stroking the ball here and there, sometimes prettily although often to little effect. Wednesday seemed to be nurturing an affinity for the Dons' left-hand post.

To the continued relief of the Wimbledon goalkeeper, Neil Sullivan, Darko Kovacevic, Waddle and Marc Degryse all found themselves stamping frustratedly after their spirited breakthroughs had produced shots that kissed the upright. The Dons sat confidently back, their solid back three panicking only during a 36th minute which contained two handball appeals and three corners to liven up the goalmouth.

The second half mercifully came to life in the 49th minute when Degryse crashed a stunning half-volley to the right of the hapless Sullivan. Four minutes later Wimbledon's new strike force in the form of two substitutes, Efan Ekoku and Jason Euell, looming like the twin towers of the World Trade Centre, pressurised the Wednesday goalkeeper, Kevin Pressman, who finally pinned a bobbling ball into the turf.

Deservedly, the Dons drew level after Marcus Gayle had pounced on Oyvind Leonhardsen's cross from the right, to lift the ball over Pressman. The goalkeeper had spent the previous seven days in an oxygen tent, a place to which he might have returned had Watts failed to meet Waddle's cross.

"The boss is going crackers," Wimbledon's Mick Harford said, referring to Joe Kinnear. "We thought we had done enough to win, but we just keep giving these stupid goals away."

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