Date: 18th April 2009 at 6:37pm
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A BRACE from loanee Luke Varney eased Wednesday to three points and put Southampton firmly in relegation trouble at Hillsborough.

Southampton showed just why they’re in trouble at the wrong end of the table with a dire performance, only testing Lee Grant once, while comical errors at the back allowed Varney to mark his final game in the blue and white stripes with a brace of strikes.

Owls boss Brian Laws made two changes to the side that fell to defeat at Q.P.R. on Easter Monday, with James O’Connor and Leon Clarke missing out for Sean McAllister and Francis Jeffers respectively.

Captain Richard Wood kept his place despite rumours he was to miss out following last week’s collapse in the capitol.

The match started with a minute’s silence for the 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster which was well observed.

The game was of vast importance to the Saints, who brought a decent following up from the south coast for their crunch clash.

But despite being in desperate need for the three points, it was Wednesday who made the slightly better opening, no doubt spurred on by a roasting from boss Laws following their defeat last time out.

A battling opening ten minutes from the hosts, helped by a lacklustre display from the Saints, set the benchmark for the clash and the returning Jeffers flashed a low effort just wide of Kelvin Davies’ goal.

The Owls continued to call the tune and they could, and should, have taken the lead not long after through Varney.

The Derby County man, returning to Pride Park following the clash, was left unmarked at the edge of the six yard box but he somehow flashed his effort over the bar when it looked easier to score.

Varney’s afternoon didn’t seem to be going in the right direction when he collided with strike partner Jeffers when going for a header, with the latter seemingly the better positioned to place a shot on goal.

But it took a turn for the better not long after, the pair seemingly getting back on the same wavelength as Jeffers caught the Saints’ defence unawares and Varney broke the offside trap before slotting the ball under the advancing Davies to put Wednesday ahead.

So often it’s said that the first goal could be crucial in a game and the same could have been said for the Owls’ penultimate home match of the season.

Southampton will have no doubt sat back and defended had they broke the deadlock, while a goal for Wednesday could well have opened the floodgates against a Saints side drastically low of confidence with their Championship status hanging in the balance.

Wednesday looked relatively comfortable throughout the first half but the visitors hadn’t throw in the towel just yet as they enjoyed their best spell of the match after the opening goal.

Alarmingly, their best spell brought very little in the clear cut chances, with David McGoldrick coming close with a header that went safely over Lee Grant’s bar.

Experienced marksman Jason Euell had the visitors’ best chance of the match not long after when he was left unmarked inside the box and had almost too much time before seeing his effort brilliantly saved by Grant.

Southampton struggled to create any kind of chances throughout and it seemed like the best chance had just come and gone.

Varney had a good chance to double his tally for the afternoon in-between the Saints pressure when he placed a glancing header agonisingly wide of goal.

Half-Time: Wednesday 1-0 Southampton

The majority of the 24,000-plus crowd at S6 will no doubt have been looking for more goals to put the visitors to bed on the resumtion – but they failed to materialise.

Where Southampton struggled to string numerous passes together in the first half, the Owls caught the same bug in the second half with chances coming few and far between.

But for however poor Wednesday were on the resumption, Southampton look a side already resigned to life in League One next season with an inept showing which no doubt angered the travelling band of fans.

Laws made one change for the start of the second 45 with Jermaine Johnson coming on to replace Jeffers, who took a knock late-on in the first half.

Laws used JJ in a striker role, which simply didn’t work, and the Owls failed to trouble the Saints defence the way they had been doing in the first half.

It seemed obvious to switch Tudgay to an attacking role alongside Varney, and switch Johnson to the right wing, but Laws refused to budge on his decision despite in failing to come to fruition.

The visitors did have one good chance in the second half as McGoldrick, involved in all the Saints best moves, flashed a shot just over Grant’s goal after Euell did the hard work inside the box.

The game turned into a scrappy affair, looking more like an end-of-season clash between two sides who were safe in mid-table rather than involving a side fighting the drop.

It did nothing to entertain the Hillsborough crowd, although the visitors had nothing to lose and Mark Wotte introduced striker Marek Saganowski as he looked for a fresh spark up front.

But Southampton’s fortunes failed to change and it was Wednesday who upped their game as the match wore on.

It could have been done and dusted not long after when Varney unselfishly put a pass across the box for the incoming Etienne Esajas who saw his powerful effort deflected to safety.

But the three points were secure with 18 minutes to go as Varney grabbed his second to seal off with double delight.

It was Southampton again who contributed to their own downfall when some sloppy passing led to the striker picking up a loose ball and comfortably rounding Davis before placing the ball into the empty net to make it 2-0.

Wednesday looked for a third to really kill the game off late on as the Southampton fans poured out of Leppings Lane, but they couldn’t create any further chances.

Full-Time: Wednesday 2-0 Southampton

Wednesday: Grant, Buxton, Wood, Hinds, Spurr, Tudgay, McAllister, Potter, Esajas (O’Connor 89), Jeffers (Johnson 46), Varney. Unused substitutes: Simek, Beevers.

Saints: Davis, Perry, Saeijs, Skacel (Saganowski 63), Wotton, Surman, Lallana (Smith 71), James, Euell, McGoldrick, Wright-Phillips (Schneiderlin 82). Unused substitutes: Forecast, Liplak.