Southampton 2-0 Wednesday
St Mary's, Southampton
19/03/11 - 5.20pm
Wednesday fell to their third league defeat on the spin at St Mary's as promotion-chasing Southampton made light work of the struggling Owls in front of the Sky TV cameras on Saturday evening.
The Owls held their hosts out in the first half but second-half strikes from Jose Fonte and Ricky Lambert saw Southampton complete a league 'double' over Wednesday.
The loss leaves Wednesday looking over their shoulders at another end-of-season relegation battle, with results elsewhere leaving them just four points off the bottom four.
Owls boss Gary Megson made a host of changes to the side that lost 4-1 at home against Peterborough United in midweek.
Young stopper Richard O'Donnell was given the nod in goal following an injury to regular number one Nicky Weaver, while centre-backs Rob Jones and Danny Batth, who both signed on loan from Scunthorpe and Wolves respectively earlier in the week, also started in a new-look back four. Paul Heffernan also replaced Jermaine Johnson to join Gary Madine in attack.
Wednesday found themselves just four points above the League One relegation places following the afternoon results and were desperate for a win. Southampton were keen for three points for very different reasons, as they looked to close the gap on the automatic promotion spots by completing a league 'double' against the Owls.
The visitors started relatively well, keeping Southampton out in the early exchanges and looking quite comfortable in the opening exchanges.
The Saints threatened first through Lambert when he superbly turned Batth and won a dangerous free-kick on the edge of the box, which he whipped towards goal and forced O'Donnell into an early save.
Wednesday were looking well organised though defensively and were forcing the hosts into long-range efforts, with Adam Lallana being forced inside before unleashing an effort which flew high and wide.
Hitting their hosts on the break seemed to be the Owls' game plan and they broke numerous times early on, only for the final ball to lack the required quality to find either Heffernan or Madine.
The Saints got a huge slice of luck and almost opened the scoring in the 20th minute when Richard Chaplow took advantage of the ball bouncing back into play from the corner flag by passing Mark Reynolds with ease on the by-line and pulling the ball back for Lallana to test O'Donnell.
Lallana was looking the biggest threat for Nigel Adkins' men and he tested O'Donnell again minutes later after bursting through the Owls midfield and launching an effort which deflected into the arms of the Owls stopper.
Wednesday responded and Gary Teale went racing down the right wing to provide a cross which Madine rose above his marker to meet but headed tamely wide.
The visitors were growing with confidence and Isaiah Osbourne came a whisker away from firing the Owls ahead just after the half-hour mark. The midfielder broke with the ball and Madine created space to allow the on-loan Aston Villa man a sight of goal and he shot inches wide to give the Saints their first real scare.
But the hosts finished the first half with a flourish, putting some pressure on the Owls goal late in the half, but the stubborn Wednesday defence didn't allow their hosts through and they were deservedly level at the break.
Half-Time: Saints 0-0 Wednesday
Wednesday forced an early corner in the second half but it was the Saints who had the first chance through skipper Dean Hammond. Hammond unleashed a superb effort which O'Donnell did brilliantly to save and keep the scores level.
Miller saw a free-kick blocked by the Southampton wall before play switched down the other end and Lee Barnard had an effort well blocked by Jones.
But from the resulting corner the Saints took the lead just before the hour mark through Fonte.
Owls boss Megson will have been disappointed at the manner of the goal, Fonte getting in front of Jones to power his header into the back of the net, giving O'Donnell no chance.
Wednesday were then forced into a change when Osbourne limped off injured, Jermaine Johnson coming on to take his place. It was a change the Owls would have made sooner, but the goal triggered a more attacking threat from the visitors.
But it had little change on proceedings as Saints, visibly lifted by the opener, doubled their advantage not long after.
Defensive problems came back to haunt Wednesday as Barnard got free of his marker inside the box and put Lambert in for a clinical finish to make it 2-0 and all-but seal the points for Wednesday.
It could have got worse for the Owls minutes later when Lallana hit the post as the hosts sensed another goal against the confidence-sapped Owls.
With 18 minutes to go Wednesday made their second change with captain Tommy Miller being replaced by Darren Potter, who had a loan spell with the Saints while he was a youngster at Liverpool.
Despite conceding two goals he could do little about, the performance of O'Donnell was one positive Wednesdayites could take from the game, and he produced another top-drawer save to deny Alex Chamberlain in the 77th-minute, palming away a curling effort from the in-deman 17-year-old.
Wednesday made their final change with ten minutes to go when James O'Connor came on to replace Teale.
The visitors kept plugging away to try and get back into the game and Potter whipped a cross in which Jones met with his head but the ball was comfortably saved by Kelvin Davies.
Coke also zipped a powerful low effort wide of goal with two minutes to go.
But Wednesday faced the long journey back to South Yorkshire with nothing to show for their efforts and needing points to haul themselves away from a relegation battle.
Full-Time: Southampton 2-0 Wednesday