Date: 10th November 2007 at 6:58pm
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Wednesday put in a five-star performance to continue their rich vein of form and climb above the Blades, for a short time at least, thanks to a masterclass against a woeful Southampton side at Hillsborough on Saturday.

The Saints came in to the clash low on confidence, with two games on the trot without finding the back of the net, and off the field problems that seem to be over-shadowing the efforts on the pitch from the St Mary’s club this season.

And it showed as Wednesday tore through the frail Southampton defence at will in a second half which will live long in the memory for the performance of one man – Akpo Sodje.

Question marks were raised over Brian Laws when he brought the lanky striker to Hillsborough from Port Vale, but after netting his first goal in the blue and white stripes in the recent victory over Plymouth, Sodje has seen his confidence rise sky high to bag two in the 5-0 mauling of George Burley’s men.

Wednesday boss Brian Laws made just the one change to the side that drew at West Brom in midweek, with Michael Johnson returning from a knock to replace youngster Mark Beevers in the heart of the defence.

Former Owls target Grzegorz Rasiak could only manage a place on the bench for Southampton, who came in all yellow for the trip to South Yorkshire, but resembled anything but Brazil.

The conditions in S6 had hardly made for an entertaining opening to the game, with the blustery winds making it difficult for either side to maintain any sort of possession and create many chances at either end.

Wednesday were shooting towards the Kop in the first half after Southampton decided to swap ends, and despite enjoying the majority of the possession it was the Saints who came closest to opening the scoring, but Lee Grant beat Andrew Surman to the ball when one-on-one after a neat through ball.

Wednesday’s best chance of the opening stages came when Jermaine Johnson found himself as the sole striker and used his pace to burst through two Southampton defenders and look in the clear but he couldn’t provide the finishing touch as he panicked and sliced the shot just wide of goal.

Tommy Spurr continued to grow in confidence, going on some bursting runs down the left hand side, but wasn’t well supported as the Owls looked a disjointed side in the opening exchanges, creating some good openings but falling short when it mattered most with the final ball.

And it was the youngster’s cross that saw Marcus Tudgay head over before Akpo Sodje saw his volleyed effort charged down by the Saints defence – a volley which caused the striker to struggle after a Southampton defender appeared to make contact with Sodje as well as the ball.

Sodje then charged down the left-hand side as Wednesday continued to look for the breakthrough, this time supplying the on-rushing Steve Watson with an effort, but the former Everton man opted to use his left foot to slice across the face of goal when it looked easier to shoot with his right.

And it was Sodje again who provided the opening for Wednesday five minutes before the break when his burst of his pace from a through ball saw him beat Saints stopper Kelvin Davis to the ball and be brought down by the stopper inside the box.

There was no doubt about the spot-kick, despite Sodje moving away from goal, and Glenn Whelan duly picked up the ball and sent Davis the wrong way to open the scoring and send Wednesday in to the break a goal to the good.

Half-Time: Wednesday 1-0 Southampton

The second half started in bizarre fashion, with Wednesday taking to the field a good three or four minutes ahead of their visitors, prompting a chorus of booing from the Wednesday fans and Laws to ask the question as to where their opponents were.

But the Saints finally came out, and were made to pay for making their hosts wait in the blustery November conditions at Hillsborough.

Bradley Wright-Phillips and Inigo Idiakez both came on for the visitors in the second half, and the former almost stole in on a neat through-ball, but was caught offside before sending his effort wide.

But from there on in, it was all Wednesday, as Southampton crumbled in a matter of minutes.

Marcus Tudgay and Sodje had been building a fine partnership up in games of late, and it paid dividends minutes later as the duo linked up to send Sodje through and goal and blast a low shot by the helpless Davies to double Wednesday’s advantage.

And just minutes later the game was as good as won as fine play from Jermaine Johnson down the right hand side saw his cross cleared as far as Whelan on the edge of the box, where he fired a low shot at Davis, but the Saints ‘keeper could only fumble the ball in to the back of the net to make it 3-0.

Sodje then went on the rampage again down the right hand side, smashing a powerful effort high and wide over the goal.

But he made no mistake when he went on a similar run minutes later, this time cutting inside on the right to launch a powerful strike which zipped over Davies and in to the back of the net to send the Owls bench into hysterics.

And on 65 minutes it was the fifth for Wednesday, this time Burton O’Brien finding himself through on goal, and letting fly with a low shot which went under Davis and in to the back of the Southampton net to complete the scoring.

The Saints number one appeared to be getting a fair amount of stick from the small contingent of travelling Southampton fans behind the goal, but fair play to them for continuing with the chants of ‘It’s just like watching Brazil’ whenever they strung a few passes together.

And fair play to the Southampton side, who continued to give their all until the final whistle, and were unlucky not to get something to show for their efforts with a number of great chances in front of goal that went begging.

Idiakez sliced a shot from point-blank range over the bar while a number of over fine chances fell to the visitors after Wednesday had taken their foot off the gas.

Sodje got his deserved standing ovation from the Wednesday faithful – one of the longest I’ve seen in a fair while down at Hillsborough – to be replaced by Deon Burton, while youngster Mark Beevers also got the chance to make an impression late on.

Full-Time: Wednesday 5-0 Southampton

Wednesday: Grant, Hinds, Simek, Michael Johnson (Beevers 87), Spurr, Whelan, Watson, Jermaine Johnson (Small 76), O’Brien, Tudgay, Sodje (Burton 71). Subs Not Used: Esajas, Folly.

Southampton: Davis, Thomas, Viafara (Wright-Phillips 46), Dailly, Davies, Skacel, Surman, Euell, Safri, Saganowski (Idiakez 46), John. Subs Not Used: Bialkowski, Rasiak, Hammill.