SHEFFIELD Wednesday produced one of their best performances of the season to secure a vital victory in their promotion battle at Huddersfield Town.
Second half goals from centre half Miguel Llera and on loan striker Nile Ranger gave the Owls a well deserved win at the Galpharm Stadium.
Wednesday’s near 4,000 following were in fine voice and saw the Owls hit the bar in only the second minute.
A long throw by Antonio down the right, was headed on by Baath to Madine whose dipping header came back off the woodwork.
Dave Jones had pledged that the Owls would attack from the start and they did with Jermain Johnson putting the home side under threat with two terrific runs.
As Huddersfield stated to apply to some pressure from a series of corners, the Owls suffered the blow of losing Reda Johnson in only the 17th minute. After treatment from Paul Smith, the defender limped away with the physio and looked disconsolate.
He was replaced at left back by Beevers, who had twice filled the role on an emergency basis earlier in the season.
Wednesday’s next threat was set up by a good ball Llera to Antonio who took on Woods but saw his cross cut out.
Llera was much closer with a fine strike from the free kick almost 35 yards out, the ball flying just past Smithies’s left hand post. Antonio also blazed a cross into the crowd after being found by a splendid cross field pass by Llera.
Apart from Madine’s early header, there had not been a clear cut chance for either side in a tight tussle.
Llera ended a threatened run by right winger Novak with a long legged tackle.
Then there were excellent challenges by Tom Clarke on Ranger and Beevers on Alan Lee and it had been that sort of game, with forwards on both sides
coming up against solid defending.
On long throw by Antonio also came to nothing as the ball was headed away.
Wednesday finally made the breakthrough from a set piece. Morrison climbed all over Baath in heading the ball away and gave away a free kick, around 29 yards
LLERA showed the strikers how to do it, with a marvellous left footed free kick in to the keeper’s bottom left hand corner of the net. The centre half had been having a fine game defensively and now he had notched his first goal for the Owls in the 54th minute.
Huddersfield seemed more open now than at any earlier stage as Wednesday, inspired by the goal, pressed for a second goal and should have got it in the 61st minute.
A couple of times, Madine pulled away in to space and did not receive the ball. The danger signs were obviously flashing for the home sides management for they were getting ready to make a double substitutional even before an on target volley by Novak was held by Bywater.
Wednesday had a glorious double opportunity in the 66th minute. A lovely ball by Lines put Ranger in the clear but he hit the bar and when the ball came out to Antonio, he blasted widely off target.
Huddersfield then brought on for Arismendi and Roberts for Novak but five minutes later, they were hit on the break as Johnson slid a through ball to RANGER who out paced his marker before confidently slotting the ball into the keeper’s bottom left hand corner for his first goal for the Owls in the 72nd minute.
Wednesday remained solid and looked well in control and there was no sign yet of the sort of drama that brought Huddersfield back from 3-1 down at Hillsborough.
A header by Rhodes from a Roberts cross was easy for Bywater to deal with and there was no concerted pressure from the home team. The Owls however had a close shave in the 85th minute when a header by Morrison from a long throw went inches past the far post.
Cadamarteri came on for Lee, then Treacy took over from Johnson with a little over four minutes left of normal time and Wednesday held firm to put the onus back on Sheffield United in the race for promotion.
Huddersfield Town: Smithies, Clarke T, Clarke P, Morrison, Woods, Ward, Kay, Arismendi, Novak, Rhodes, Lee. Subs: Bennett, McCombe, Roberts, Cadamarteri, Arfield.
Sheffield Wednesday: Bywater, Buxton, Baath, Llera, Johnson R, Antonio, Lines, Semedo, Johnson J, Madine, Ranger. Subs: Weaver, Beevers, Treacey, Sedgewick, Lowe.
Referee: Anthony Taylor (Manchester)