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Nationwide Division One, 3/2/01
Sheffield Wednesday
Long live the First Division
By Asher Peters

Partners in crap last season, upside down results this. Sheffield Wednesday looked and sounded almost as beaten as they did then but still should have scored more goals than they did in a first half of unprecedented stupidity.

It was almost surreal - the defences utterly incapable, chance after chance but Wednesday's giants unable to score. You know something's up when the guy in the bookies questions a 3-1 selection on the grounds the home side would never score; the Watford Observer had talked up their level of strife. Yet for most of the first half it was head in hands, Ekoku missed three or four easy opportunities even before Vernazza sparked mass betting slip ripping. (Our cockney Italian is clearly class and we can only smirk at having nicked someone out of the Premiership for virtually nish.) A side-foot from the edge of the box to embellish another commanding performance, combative not dirty, stylish not elaborate. Even Wednesday can't pass up as many opportunities as they were given, though, and both their equalisers were basic and scything, not that it's hard to scythe through blancmange.

Sibon lobbed in enough style to ease question marks over Chamberlain's decision making, at least for a half hour. It's uneasy viewing when we can get so close to the Premiership but be so poor in our defending basics; to be honest though, the sheer, Big Top craziness of the first half was enough to hide the evidence of lessons unlearned. Ward stuck in a rare goal, like Page last year, and deja vu was confirmed by a second equaliser.

It's hard to explain: the football dumb, simple, slapstick, shambolic but this is better, for me, than eking out a Coventry existence in the Premiership where only your mistakes make any headlines. My team have got silly weaknesses, have I. I quite like it that way.

Anyway, you have to be crap to appreciate being good, as we were in the second half. Smith and Helguson started to resemble a partnership, something we haven't honestly had for some time. The running was as excellent as you'd expect but also understanding, confidence - can we now ignore setbacks like Norwich? - and no little class. Smith's goal, where as those in the first half had seemed as significant as points in basketball, was properly celebrated. Both Sheffield clubs like to keep the bottom tier free of fans, so don't believe what you see on Soccer AM. Stay asleep instead.

Until about eighty minutes gone, we looked like we'd comfortably close the game out - but we never do that, and I'm quietly glad really. A mad, inept flurry where, again, a decent side would have dismissed us, left me exhilarated not worried - chuckling not grumbling. We really aren't that good. But we can do slick, shit, fluid, stupid, tough, fragile - everything I want from football. It would be boring to win all the time. No, it would.