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FA Carling Premiership, 18/3/00
Sheffield Wednesday
The longest season
By Martin Blanc

It's tempting to write only about the last ninety seconds of this game. Watford played beautifully, Smart scored early thanks to a splendid assist from star forward Tommy Smith, then we defended stoutly and resolutely for the arduous and seemingly endless remainder of the game, displaying the excellent teamwork that has often been lacking, etc., etc.

But unfortunately there were eighty-eight other minutes first. And although Alec Chamberlain was careful to blame the pitch for the unpredictability of the ball's movement and bounce in his post-match interview, as it careered for the third time across the face of the Watford goal during a Wednesday attack without anyone of either team able to put it in the net (and you'd have got pretty short odds against one of ours doing it), you wondered if Alec ought perhaps to have been a bit more grateful for that bounce, and take a bit more responsibility for its movement.

On the other hand, a ninety seconds like that puts a shine on everything that went before it - and how it needed it. Spurning chance after well-earned chance usually leads to much wailing, gnashing of teeth, and rude words on BSaD. But this time the opposition were as strangulated in midfield and speculative in attack as their thoroughly unwelcome supporters at our end were (and as we've been made to look with depressing regularity). So there's no point cataloguing the errors, even of the linesman whose flag was raised with bonkers regularity as we crossed the halfway line; instead you just want to sing the praises of Wooter and the entire midfield gang, whose crossfield passing was immaculate, as well as Cox and Robbo, who did the necessary down each flank and will hopefully have gained some confidence (much needed in Robbo's case, by the looks of things) for Spurs next week. To thank Alec for stopping whatever came his way. And to forgive Micah, and Nordin himself, for their - how shall we put it? - wobbly efforts in the Wednesday box in the first half. We simply stuck at it, were lucky for a change in the second half when Bob de Bilde and his mates looked like they were getting it together, and then made a lovely game-in-miniature, a sort of bonsai afternoon, of the last wild few minutes. Something we haven't done all season which, together with playing towards the Rookery in the first half, we might perhaps like to try again before May 14.

It's been a very long season - feels like it started last January in the Cup at Spurs, when we had a scary glimpse of what lay ahead if - and it was such a big if - we made it to the Premiership. That's fifteen months and counting - the high spots have been great but in retrospect somewhat infrequent. The points that just haven't come our way when they maybe could or should have done must be getting on for about as many as we've actually got. But hey, our little victories - including the tumbling season ticket prices - oughtn't to be sniffed at. There's still the chance of someone overhauling the massive target of becoming our leading scorer for the season - reckon about ten players are in with a shout. There's still the chance of lots of things - but one day at a time, eh?