Date: 14th April 2008 at 11:25pm
Written by:

A Tommy Spurr thunderbolt nine minutes from time rescued a point for Wednesday and lifted them out of the Championship drop zone after a drab game of football on Paul Sturrock’s first return to Hillsborough since his sacking.

Spurr launched a superb half-volley from outside the box which left Argyle stopper Luke McCormick with no chance to reply to Peter Halmosi’s fortunate first minute opener in a clash which neither side looked like they wanted to win.

Both sides were desperate for all three points going in to the game, with a win for Sturrock’s Argyle keeping their hopes of a play-off finish on track, while three for Wednesday would have gone a long way to securing their Championship status for next season.

But although Owls fans will be disappointed that they didn’t get a win – and recorded their seventh straight draw – it will be Owls boss Brian Laws who will be the happier of the two managers after saw them leapfrog both Leicester and Coventry.

Laws was forced to use left-back Peter Gilbert in the right-back role due to injuries, while Burton O’Brien came in to the centre of midfield with Graham Kavanagh missing through injury following the 2-2 draw against Sheffield United last week.

Paul Sturrock brought his Plymouth side back to Hillsborough in search three points, and included former Owl Steve Maclean in the Pilgrims’ attack – worth a good bet prior to the clash as first scorer.

It didn’t take long for Owls fans to bring out the Paul Sturrock songs, with the former Owls’ gaffer acknowledging his former fans in the opening exchanges.

But it also didn’t take long for the visitors to take the advantage through the most fortunate of circumstances as Peter Halmosi’s first minute free-kick was cruelly deflected in to the back of Lee Grant’s goal from Deon Burton.

The goal was an early set-back for the Owls, but if there was ever a good time to concede it was in the first minute, with the Wednesday faithful in fine voice to offer their backing, while the hosts had time to regroup for the remaining 89 minutes.

And Burton had a golden opportunity to find the onion bag at the other end when Jermaine Johnson’s cross fell at his feet only yards out, but the Jamaican international was unable to adjust his feet and his effort went wide.

Strike partner Ben Sahar at least fared a bit better when his looping effort from the edge of the box forced an awkward save from McCormick in the Plymouth goal.

Wednesday, although lacking any real fluency in attack, were making all the running with Plymouth seemingly happy to sit back on their advantage, and it was Jermaine Johnson who next came close to finding the back of the net but he flashed his powerful effort just wide of goal.

And although chances were coming few and far between, Ben Sahar had another decent effort flash over the bar after he was first to react when a Deon Burton free-kick took a deflection off the Plymouth defensive wall just minutes before the break.

Half-Time: Wednesday 0-1 Plymouth

In recent weeks the Owls seem to have come out fighting in the second half thanks to some half-time teamtalks from Laws, but although Wednesday continued to call the tune on the resumption, they failed to threaten the Plymouth goal as the visiting defence had it pretty easy.

And it could have been game, set and match to Sturrock had Jermaine Easter not seen his effort brilliantly saved down low by the impressive Grant, of which turned out to be the visitors only other real chance of the match.

With Wednesday looking lacklustre in attack, Laws made a double change with Sahar coming off to be replaced by Bartosz Slusarski, while Jermaine Johnson also came off to be replaced by Wade Small.

Johnson had endured a frustrating period on the wing, with his final ball often lacking, while on the other side Franck Songo’o looked more keen on pleasing the Sky TV cameras than doing the simple things well.

Still, Songo’o still looked like the greatest threat for the Owls, with the central midfield pairing of Adam Bolder and Burton O’Brien huffing and puffing but failing to blow the Plymouth house down.

Songo’o forced McCormick in to a fine save from a free-kick at the egde of the box following a foul on Slusarski, while Burton came close again as his glancing header from a long Tommy Spurr throw-in forced a top-drawer save from the Argyle stopper.

Former Owls striker Steve Maclean came off to a rousing reception from the Hillsborough faithful, but the Scot had shown little in attack for the visitors throughout.

But Wednesday fans may still have been wishing he was wearing blue and white rather than green and white as chances continued to come and go for Wednesday, Wade Small the latest to see his effort flash across the face of goal.

But the goal for the Owls finally came with nine minutes to go as an attempted clearance from Argyle came to Tommy Spurr who smashed a superb long-range effort in to the back of McCormick’s goal to send the Hillsborough faithful wild and force attack after attack on the Plymouth goal.

Songo’o and O’Brien both came close while Slusarski almost got on the end of a scramble inside the Plymouth box and Wade Small also scuffed an effort on the edge of the box.

Mackie also had a decent effort for the visitors late on but Grant was able to produce a relatively comfortable save.

Full-Time: Wednesday 1-1 Plymouth

Wednesday: Grant, Gilbert, Wood, Beevers, Spurr, Johnson (Small 64), Bolder, O’Brien, Songo’o, Sahar (Slusarski 64), Burton. Unused substitutes: Burch, McMenamin, Wallwork.

Plymouth: McCormick, Connolly, Timar, Nalis, Sawyer, Anderson (Fallon 90), Halmosi (Clark 65), Abdou, Patterson, MacLean (Mackie 86), Easter. Unused substitutes: Summerfield, Doumbe.