Wednesday still not sure of their safety

Sheffield Wednesday 0 Chelsea 0
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The Independent Online
Sheffield Wednesday 0 Chelsea 0

The boos that greeted David Pleat's decision to substitute his mercurial winger Regi Blinker in the hope that Chris Waddle's ageing legs could revive their flagging hopes said little about the Hillsborough crowd's tactical acumen but spoke volumes about their growing frustrations as Wednesday's disappointing season obstinately refuses to resolve itself.

A victory would have guaranteed Premiership football next season, but despite the fact that their opponents had nothing to play for but pride and were flirting with the curse of a grey away-strip, they were unable to dispel those lingering relegation fears.

Blinker's influence had waned as the game progressed, but the boo-boys did at least recognise that his contribution showed the spirit and motivation that so many of his team-mates lacked.

The mathematics will almost certainly work out in Wednesday's favour yet, but they could have put their season of under-achievement out of its misery if they had figured out how to turn their early chances into goals.

Guy Whittingham and Peter Atherton both squandered clear opportunities before Blinker, the more eye-catching of the two dreadlocked Dutchmen on show, ended an intricate dribble with a pinpoint cross which David Hirst headed over.

But inevitably it was his lookalike, Chelsea's Ruud Gullit, who came closest to breaking the deadlock, setting John Spencer free to lob Kevin Pressman. Atherton raced back to hook the ball off the line. Mark Hughes, fresh from a hat-trick against another set of under-performing Yorkshiremen, hit the post before half-time, but after that both sides settled down to show that attractive, one-touch football does not always bring its own reward.

Nevertheless, Hirst should have closed the relegation trapdoor firmly. Blinker's delightful cross-field ball allowed Whittingham to put him clear, but Dmitri Kharin turned his close-range shot over the bar.

Pleat said afterwards that he had taken Blinker off because he was "labouring". He was in a minority of one. The sponsors named the Dutchman man of the match.

Sheffield Wednesday (4-4-2): Pressman; Atherton, Newsome, Walker, Briscoe; Whittingham, Pembridge, Sheridan, Blinker (Waddle, 77); Hirst, Degryse. Substitutes not used: Nicol, Donaldson.

Chelsea (3-5-2): Kharin; Duberry (Peacock 27), Lee, Myers; Burley, Gullit, Wise, Spackman, Minto; Spencer, Hughes. Substitutes not used: Hitchcock (gk), Furlong.

Referee: G Willard (Worthing).