MATCH VERDICT: Wanderers 0 Sheffield Wednesday 1

First published in Sport The Bolton News: Photograph of the Author by , chief football writer

IF Wanderers do not shift this hangover to end all hangovers soon, then forget all about promotion – they should head into 2013 glancing anxiously over their shoulder at the Championship relegation zone.

Five months into the season and it is galling to think that the psychological effects of relegation from the Premier League are still being discussed.

And yet that is where we find ourselves after the penultimate game of the year, 16th in the table and closer to the bottom three than we are the play-offs.

One glance at Sheffield Wednesday, who have just disappeared back over the Pennines with three hard-fought points will tell you that big clubs can, and do, fall further.

Mamady Sidibe's header was enough to earn Dave Jones's Owls a third consecutive win, which has hauled them clear of danger.

But heading into Saturday's meeting with Birmingham City – another former top-flight club in that corridor of uncertainty between the bottom three and mid-table – Wanderers have got to find some way of ridding themselves of this current funk or they could end up being dragged somewhere they definitely do not want to be.

After the nightmare of Peterborough, there were at least signs of fight, not least in the second half when the tempo was raised and the pressure was hiked up on the visitors.

Aside from the first 15 minutes, however, it rarely looked like Wanderers were going to get round the lumbering but effective Wednesday back line.

Playing an attack-minded 4-4-2, the restored Martin Petrov and Benik Afobe had some joy in the wider positions and linked well with David Ngog who was starting a game for the first time since Blackpool.

The Frenchman forced Chris Kirkland into an excellent save early on with a low left-footed effort, pushed away well by the former Wigan stopper.

But all the good early work was wasted when Lewis Buxton was given time to cross from the right and Sidibe beat Tim Ream – starting for the first time since Brighton – to head home the opening goal.

Wind now completely gone from their sails, little mistakes started to creep into Wanderers' make-up and that then translated on to the terraces.

It would have been worse had Keiran Lee aimed either side of Adam Bogdan rather than shooting right down the middle when he had twisted and turned past Sam Ricketts just before the interval.

But when Scott Mathieson blew for half time, the jeers – whatever your opinion on whether they should be there at all – were at least more understandable than they had been in the previous home game against Charlton when the scores were goalless.

Into the second half, the frustration continued. Ngog may have lightened the mood a little had he connected better with Afobe's hook back from the byline but saw his improvised effort dribble agonisingly wide of the far post.

Freedman sent on Chung-Yong Lee in place of Petrov, who had experienced another bitty afternoon, and must have been praying for a bit of good fortune to come his way.

The signs did not look good as Kirkland got himself in the way of an Afobe header before a flurry of covering defenders cleared the ball into touch ahead of Ngog.

That prompted the manager to try the road untested.

Marvin Sordell and Marcos Alonso were called upon from the bench, with Ricketts and Eagles giving way.

Wanderers huffed and puffed but the killer pass, the moment of genius, the Premier League class, had totally vanished by that stage.

Wednesday's fans danced, while many of the home patrons headed out disconsolately to the packed out car parks of Middlebrook.

Those who did stay behind vented their anger once more, as well they might.

Freedman needs to find a hangover cure quickly if he is going to stop the boos.

Just look around the bottom third of the Championship and it is littered with examples of clubs who failed to deal with life outside the top flight while they still had the financial advantage.

Wednesday, Charlton, Ipswich, Birmingham – even Barnsley once harboured hopes of an immediate return to the glitz and glamour.

And however good Wanderers might look on paper, they look anything like a side capable of playing in the Premier League right now.

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