SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY moved level on points with Sheffield United for second position in League One after an excellent win at the in-form Notts County.
Ryan Lowe and Gary Madine scored the goals for the Owls in the second half with Lloyd Sam replying late on for the Magpies.
It was County, shorn of the services of experienced striker Lee Hughes due to a knee problem, who made a bright start, creating the opening opportunity of the contest.
The diminutive Judge released Forte on the right hand side and his pass went slightly behind the on rushing Bishop but dropped invitingly for Harley, who fired his effort over the bar.
The hosts had a penalty claim after eight minutes turned down when Freeman brushed in to Semedo but the referee was unmoved. Great work from Antonio, on loan from Reading, helped Wednesday win a throw in deep inside County territory. Antonio launched it into the area and Rob Jones rose unmarked to head wide.
On the quarter of the hour mark, Wednesday came close to breaking the deadlock when Lines’s cross was met by Rob Jones but once again he headed off target from close range. Jones in the aerial collision with a County defender appeared to hurt his shoulder and despite the best efforts of the physio Paul Smith he was unable to continue and was taken off and replaced Miguel Llera.
One of the Spaniard’s first touches was a vital interception to cut out Jeff Hughes’s dangerous delivery.
In the 27th minute, Harley fed Judge, operating in the hole behind Forte and he had acres of room to weigh up his options, he dribbled forward with purpose before unleashing a fierce drive which went harmlessly over.
At the other end, Mike Jones whipped in a dangerous looking ball in to the box for Madine to run on to and the clubs top scorer went down under pressure from Chilvers but the referee wasn’t interested in the appeals for the spot kick.
After a promising opening, this had turned in to scrappy, cagey affair with both sides cancelling each other out. A well flighted free kick from Sheehan was brilliantly headed away by Baath and on the counter attack, Antonio latched on to a superb throw ball from Semedo, nudging Harley off the ball before shooting in to the side netting from an acute angle.
Lowe was furious with his team mate for not squaring the ball to him. Moments later there was controversy when Madine was brought down by Chilvers just outside the penalty area and the referee awarded a free kick, but decided not to yellow card the defender, although it was a crude challenge. Wednesday remained in the ascendency and another long throw from Antonio fell to Julian Bennett at the back post but his left foot shot was expertly blocked by Freeman.
Just after the restart, Lines whipped in a tremendous free kick which was punched away by Nelson. Wednesday, linked with striker Robbie Fowler on a short term contract in the national press today, shaded the early skirmishes after the break and a lovely free flowing move on the left involving Lines, Lowe and Madine saw the latters cross comfortably gathered by Nelson.
The visitors had Antonio to thank for the first goal of the afternoon as their pressure paid off. He skipped past 3 or 4 County defenders, put in a wonderful cross which was tapped in by RYAN LOWE in the 53rd minute.
County, who had not lost at home since December 17th, quickly regrouped and Judge’s teasing delivery nearly found Jeff Hughes only for Bennett to put it out for a corner.
Once again, Antonio was at the heart of everything for the Owls and he was impeded, drawing the foul. Llera’s turning free kick was then acrobatically kept out by Nelson.
County brought on Lloyd Sam, signed on loan from Leeds United until the end of the season in place of Harley as the hosts looked for a way back in to proceedings.
However, MADINE deservedly doubled Wednesday’s advantage with 25 minutes remaining. When he got on the end of Buxton’s throw, turned Chilvers and lashed a right foot shot into the bottom corner, giving Nelson no chance at all.
Both teams made tactical substitutions over the following ten minutes, with Ben Burgess coming on for Mahon to partner Forte upfront for Notts County and Lowe, who was given a standing ovation by the travelling Wednesday faithfully, as he made way for Chris O’Grady.
County marginally improved, with Judge dragging a shot off target and Forte, who cut a forlorn an isolated figure for much of the clash, drifted beyond Llera but he failed to force Bywater in to making a save and he blazed over.
A woeful clearance from Nelson went straight to O’Grady but he chose not to shoot first time eventually being tackled.
Out of nothing, the hosts reduced the arrears with two minutes remaining on the clock when SAM volleyed in Judge’s great free kick.
In the dying minutes, Wednesday took a quick corner and it took a smart stop at the near post from Nelson to deny O’Grady.
COUNTY: Nelson, Sheehan, Freeman, Chilvers, Stewart, Hughes, Bishop, Mahon, Harley, Judge, Forte. Subs: Birch, Pearce, Benchirif, Burgess, Sam.
WEDNESDAY: Bywater, Buxton, Batth, Jones (R), Bennett, Jones (M), Semedo, Lines, Antonio, Madine, Lowe. Subs: Jameson, Prutton, O’Grady, Morrison, Llera.
Referee: Jonathan Moss, West Yorkshire.