Good enough to go up as classy Owls call the Toon: Sheffield Wednesday 2 Newcastle United 1

Tom Lees scores. Pictures: Steve Ellis and PA Wire
Tom Lees scores. Pictures: Steve Ellis and PA Wire

Fluent, vibrant, free-flowing attacking football.

It was back with a vengeance at Hillsborough over the weekend.

Tom Lees is mobbed

Tom Lees is mobbed

Wednesday went toe to toe with one of the best sides in the league and won.

Carlos Carvalhal outwitted Rafael Benitez, a Champions-League-winning-manager, yet again.

Fulham had turned up the pressure a notch by beating Ipswich Town earlier on Saturday to leapfrog the Owls into sixth spot. Some questioned how Wednesday would respond.

The fans shouldn’t have worried.

Steve Fletcher, out of picture, adds the second

Steve Fletcher, out of picture, adds the second

The real Sheffield Wednesday turned up and delivered an outstanding team performance.

The team were on it from the word go and so were the fans. It felt a pivotal day in the race for promotion.

Steven Fletcher said: “We have a lot of experience in our team. We saw the Fulham result but we just concentrated on ourselves.

“We did what the gaffer wanted us to do and did our jobs properly. It was a big game for us but we did our jobs so we’re happy.”

The victory leap

The victory leap

It is a shame Wednesday haven’t played with this swagger and confidence on a more consistent basis this term. If they had, they would probably be challenging Newcastle for automatic promotion.

But the big positive for Carvalhal and company is the team have momentum going into the final stretch.

RHODES LEFT OUT

Carvalhal isn’t afraid to make tough selection calls and eyebrows were raised over his decision to drop Jordan Rhodes to the bench and recall left-back Daniel Pudil.

However, Gary Hooper, who featured prominently in the first half, and Fletcher expertly led the line. Hooper rattled the crossbar inside the opening two minutes before Fletcher inexplicably fired wide after a lovely attack involving Barry Bannan and Hooper.

Bannan was fortunate to escape a red card following a late tackle on Matt Ritchie. Bannan was lucky to get away with that one.

But there was nothing fluky about Wednesday’s victory. They pressed and harried Newcastle in possession and then broke quickly themselves on the counter-attack.

Tom Lees was a pillar of strength at the back, David Jones worked hard off the ball to give the Magpies midfield no time and space to dominate and Hooper’s ability to effectively link the midfield and forward line helped give Wednesday the edge.

Newcastle inevitably improved after the break and underlined why they boast the best away record in the division but Lees headed in Ross Wallace’s inch-perfect free-kick to put the hosts ahead against the run of play.

Fletcher grabbed his third goal in two starts midway through the second half, looping a header over Karl Darlow after a long throw by Pudil.

Carvalhal said: “They were both fantastic headers. We had a plan and the players did exactly what they must do. We were the best team on the pitch and deserved to win the game.”

SHELVEY

Nearly half of Newcastle’s 16 attempts came from Jonjo Shelvey. The influential midfielder is a class act at this level and he had a great duel with Keiren Westwood.

Shelvey’s extraordinary lob from inside his own half just before the interval hit the crossbar and was an outrageous piece of skill and vision.

Westwood continued to frustrate Shelvey and Newcastle after the break.

Shelvey kept passing and probing and deservedly got on the scoresheet with two minutes remaining after Westwood could only parry Aleksandar Mitrovic’s drive.

It set up a nervy finish but Wednesday, who lost captain Glenn Loovens to an abductor injury, held on.

OWLS FANS

Carvalhal said: “The fans screamed a lot during the game. We felt their presence.”

The supporters willed the team on and created a terrific atmosphere inside S6. The players gave them something to shout about and get behind. Everybody felt united.

There was no negativity. Just positivity.

“It was nice to put in a good performance for the fans,” acknowledged Fletcher. “Their support was great. The place was electric.”

It was a fine end to a good week for Wednesday. Carvalhal’s side should rightly earn plenty of praise and plaudits for picking up seven points since the last international break.

There is still work to be done, but a play-off place remains in their hands.

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