The trap-door through which Sheffield Wednesday were in danger of falling was effectively closed by events elsewhere by half-time yesterday.
Just as well, as Wednesday were certainly second best for most of this game and were considerably flattered by taking a point - which, in other circumstances, could have been vital - when John Newsome glanced his header into Ludek Miklosko's net in the dying seconds.
It seemed that the challenge to West Ham of achieving their best-ever Premiership status was more important to them than survival was to their visitors. Virtually from the kick-off the Hammers rolled in waves towards Kevin Pressman's goal. Marc Rieper signalled their intentions with a firm header that missed the target in the fourth minute and the Wednesday keeper had to resurrect the form that had put him on the fringes of the England squad to thwart Iain Dowie and Keith Rowland before half-time.
His labours were not over. Michael Hughes had a second-half shot well saved before the winger shaped West Ham's goal in the 73rd minute with a chipped free-kick from the right which found Julian Dicks hurtling into the six-yard box to head beyond Pressman.
The introduction of Chris Waddle's old head and Richard Humphries' young legs did not seem to create much of a difference as Rieper and Slaven Bilic still dealt comfortably with a cumbersome David Hirst and had little trouble snuffing out the occasional flash of inspiration from Regi Blinker. The only times when Miklosko had to break sweat came from a couple of Mark Pembridge free-kicks which the keeper dealt with acrobatically. Then, in the last minute, Humphries whipped over a last desperate cross to which Newsome got the merest of touches to bury the ball in the far corner.
In the end, it was more melodrama than drama but David Pleat will not be lulled or diverted from the need to repair the holes that have appeared in the Wednesday fabric. The careless somnambulism in recent weeks which had brought them to the edge of relegation should not have been allowed. Harry Redknapp's flash young Eastenders, especially the immensely improved and impressive Danny Williamson, looked much more like the business.
Veteran Alvin Martin came on as substitute for the last few minutes to a deserved tumultuous welcome.
Goals: Dicks (73) 1-0; Newsome (89) 1-1.
West Ham United (4-4-2): Miklosko; Breacker, Bilic, Rieper, Dicks; Hughes, Potts, Williamson, Rowland (Lampard, 70); Cottee (Ferdinand, 70), Dowie (Martin, 88).
Sheffield Wednesday (3-5-2): Pressman; Atherton, Walker, Newsome; Pembridge, Degryse (Humphries, 84), Hyde, Briscoe, Blinker (Waddle, 78); Hirst, Whittingham. Substitute not used: Nichol.
Referee: R Dilkes (Lancashire).
Man of the match: Williamson. Attendance: 23,790.
West Ham (0) 1 Sheff Wed (0) 1 West Ham: Miklosko, Breacker, Dicks, Potts, Bilic, Rieper, Rowland (Lampard 70), Hughes, Williamson, Cottee (Ferdinand 70), Dowie (Martin 88). Goals: Dicks 73. Sheff Wed: Pressman, Hyde, Atherton, Walker, Briscoe, Whittingham, Newsome, Pembridge, Blinker (Waddle 78), Hirst, Degryse (Humphries 84). Subs Not Used: Nicol. Goals: Newsome 89. Att: 23,790 Ref: L R Dilkes (Mossley).Reuse content