Date: 7th December 2008 at 7:57pm
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MARCUS Tudgay bagged a late, late leveller to give the Owls a share of the spoils in the proverbial ‘game of two halves’ to make it three games unbeaten in the Championship for Brian Laws and his men.

Laws will have seen the trip to the South coast as an ideal opportunity to continue his side’s improved form on the road, following on from the 2-0 win at Blackpool last time out on the road, with the Saints struggling to find any form at all this season.

At the same time, although Jan Poortvliet has endured a difficult start to his reign at St Mary’s, he too will have seen the visit of the Owls as the ideal chance to bag some much needed three-points in front of Southampton’s dwindling crowds.

Owls boss Brian Laws made a number of changes to the side that beat Norwich City at home last weekend with Frank Simek returning to right-back following Tony McMahon’s final loan match against the Canaries, while Sean McAllister returned in place of Steve Watson in centre-midfield.

Southampton needed the points much more than Wednesday going into the traditionally difficult Christmas period, and it showed in the first 45 minutes with the home side bossing the match.

It looked like more of the same for the travelling Barmy Army in the away end as Wednesday struggled to get to grips on their travels, and Saints fans could well have been left feeling disappointed to only take a 1-0 lead into the break.

It was Bradley Wright-Phillips who fired the hosts ahead when he powered by the returning Simek to fire across the face of goal to give the Saints a deserved lead after just 14 minutes.

Chances were coming thick and fast for the Saints, with the home side firing almost at will to keep Lee Grant busy throughout, Lallana and Wright-Phillis both coming close to extending the hosts’ lead.

At the other end, the partnership of Jeffers and Clarke never really threatened the Southampton goal, despite showing some promising signs with Jeffers dropping back to try and supply the ammunition for the in-form former Wolves man.

Jordan Robertson saw Grant make a superb save to deny the Saints frontman from a corner kick, while McGoldrick flashed a header wide minutes later.

Lewis Buxton saw an effort blocked as half-time approached, while Etienne Esajas continued his fine form as he threatened with arguably the Owls’ best chance of the half when he lashed a volley over the Saints bar from close range.

Southampton 1-0 Wednesday

Brian Laws has made comment on Wednesday’s poor start to matches in previous week, Norwich as a prime example, and he’ll have no doubt have been disappointed with his troops once again in the first 45 minutes at Southampton.

But, as with Norwich, the Owls showed a lot more purpose as they pushed forward in search of an equaliser after the break.

Lee Grant fumbled an early Saints effort, with Robertson coming close to slotting in the rebound as Southampton carried their momentum into the second period.

But after that, Wednesday looked the more likely to score the next goal with a more attacking approach, despite Laws refusing to make any changes following the lacklustre first-half showing.

Tudgay and James O’Connor both came close for the Owls within minutes of each other as Wednesday upped their gear and showed the home fans that the three points were going to be anything but a walk in the park.

Although beaten for the first goal, Simek was showing signs of his former self after returning from injury to provide some of his typical surging forward runs which were starting to show cracks in the Southampton defence, which had been relatively untested in the first half.

Tudgay again came close as he saw his effort blocked, while Clarke broke free inside the Saints box but took one touch too many to see his effort deflected out for a corner with Jeffers well placed inside the box.

Jeffers was soon to replaced to give Slusarski his second substitute appearace since returning on-loan to Hillsborough from West Brom, while Wade Small also came on for a rare appearance to replace Esajas as Laws looked for a change in attacking style.

Southampton did create a few chances in the final ten minutes before some fine play in the Owls attack saw the equaliser soon come, Tudgay producing a calm, measured finish to fire by the Saints keeper and wheel away in celebration to the Wednesday fans.

The Owls striker-turned midfielder also got a booking for his celebration.

But Wednesday could well have felt they deserved to leave with all three points as Clarke saw a header brilliantly turned over the bar, while sub Slusarski also fired just wide late on.

Full-Time: Southampton 1-1 Wednesday

Southampton: Davis; James, Perry, Pearce, Skacel; Lallana, Surman, Cork, Wright-Phillips, McGoldrick (Gillett 79), Robertson (Paterson 62). Subs not used: Forecast, Wotton, Mills.

Wednesday: Grant; Simek, Wood, Beevers, Buxton; Tudgay, McAllister, O’Connor, Esajas (Small 79); Clarke, Jeffers (Slusarski 71). Subs not used: O’Donnell, Spurr, Smith.