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Last updateTue, 30 Sep 2014 4am

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Jones returns to haunt Sheffield Wednesday

Somehow it was always destined that Kenwyne Jones would return to haunt Sheffield Wednesday.
In the same way that Saints fans always fear returning favourites will sore against them, so the Hillsborough faithful were already dreading the inevitable even before the game.

For once home fans were lumping money on an away striker to net the opener - and little wonder! They had seen first-hand just how deadly his finishing can be. Last season the Trinidad and Tobago international played a key role in helping the Owls to promotion.

It was his scorching run of seven goals in as many games which gave Paul Sturrock's men the momentum for their play-off push. The Sheffield supporters took him to their hearts - and welcomed him back with a warm ovation not just before the game but also when he was substituted - even though he had scored the winner.

It was exactly the kind of clinical finish they had got used to seeing when he wore blue and white stripes rather than red. There was an element of luck as young Woods slipped on the treacherous surface made slippery by the heavy rain.

But Jones showed his trademark opportunism and eye for goal as he pounced in a flash to hold off Simek to the left of goal before steering a precise shot into the far corner from a tight angle. It was just the sort of break Saints needed to restore belief for the Coca-Cola campaign.

That was the kind of fortune which never went for them last season - and it was that kind of error which Saints themselves made too often on the road to relegation. This time last year they were two divisions clear of Wednesday whose fortunes were only revived with the arrival of Sturrock who left Southampton by mutual consent almost exactly 12 months ago.

But that gulf in class was still evident as Harry Redknapp's men comfortably controlled this game. They weathered the inevitable early storm from the home side, riding their luck when Whelan put a free header wide early on.

Then Brunt was not closed down but fired wide - both openings which might well have been punished in the Premiership. At this level the finishing is slightly less clinical and having survived those scares, Saints took charge.

On 21 minutes, Jones showed how it should be done - and kept his word not to celebrate, looking almost apologetic as he trotted back to the centre circle. From then on Saints were always in command, handling Wednesday's somewhat predictable and one-dimensional attacks.

It was simply a case of keeping their concentration and maintaining their focus to deal with the succession of crosses which were nodded away by Lundekvam and Powell to protect Niemi. There was strong support on the flanks from Hajto and Higginbotham, two centre-backs playing wide to give the back four a towering look.

It was the same defensive line-up as Redknapp used on the opening day and again they kept a clean sheet. But it was not simply a rearguard action; the team looked better moving forward too.

The midfield clicked with Nigel Quashie and David Prutton willing workhorses around the commanding presence of Matt Oakley. He was a proven Premiership performer but at this level he is a real class act, making time and space on the ball and using it well.

And from the wide left Djamel Belmadi showed his quality as he bounced back from a disappointing opening day against Wolves. On that occasion he struggled to get into the game but here he pulled all the strings with a series of penetrating passes and surging runs.

He was disappointed not to score as he hooked high over from around the penalty spot, in a similar fashion to Powell in the first half. Oakley ran onto a Jones pull-back but saw his 18-yard low drive well saved with no-one following up as the ball squirmed loose from the keeper's grasp.

Wednesday were running out of ideas in attack and their best hope was a fruitless penalty appeal when Peacock went down under a Hajto challenge from behind. The only real concern for Saints was the lack of a cutting edge to get the vital cushion of a second goal, despite the lively threat of substitute Theo Walcott whose pace terrified the defence.

Although well on top, there was always the fear of the kind of late sucker punch which proved so costly last season and again at Luton in midweek. In fact, they were able to close out the game relatively easily to secure only their second away win in 23 attempts and their first in this yellow kit.

It felt so good to come away and dominate and see out a well-deserved victory. Hopefully that will now set a new trend for the season where the team no longer fear tough trips but use them as a chance to stamp their authority on the division.

Sheff Wed: Lucas, Simek, Lee, Wood, Hills, Eagles (Proudlock 61), Whelan, Rocastle (O'Brien), Brunt, Graham (Partridge 61), Peacock. Subs: Coughlan, Adams.

Saints: Niemi, Hajto, Lundekvam, Powell, Higginbotham, Prutton, Oakley, Quashie, Belmadi, Blackstock (Walcott 71), Jones (Delap 85). Subs: Cranie, Dyer, Smith.

Referee: Mike Pike. Attendance: 26,688