Stevie May bagged a brace either side of half-time as Sheffield Wednesday came from behind to beat lowly Wigan Athletic 2-1 at Hillsborough this afternoon. It is the Owls’ first victory since September 20, ending an 11-match winless run in all competitions.
Gray handed a first-team recall to Chris Maguire, with Jacques Maghoma dropping to the substitutes bench.
Atdhe Nuhiu replaced Gary Taylor-Fletcher, who returned to his parent club Leicester City earlier this week, up front.
Caolan Lavery is included in the match-day squad, having recovered from a serious knee injury, while goalkeeper Chris Kirkland has shrugged off an illness.
Wednesday made a nervy start and it took an excellent sliding challenge by skipper Glenn Loovens in the penalty area to prevent Adam Forshaw from breaking clear.
The hosts created their first meaningul opportunity in the fourth minute when Jeremy Helan fed Atdhe Nuhiu, who released Royston Drenthe out wide. The Dutch intenrational jinked his way to the byline before floating in a teasing cross to the back post which Nuhiu nodded over the top from an acute angle.
Wigan, sitting second-from-bottom, looked threatening on the counter attack and Callum McManaman tricked his way past before seeing his fierce low drive well saved by Keiren Westwood.
With Nuhiu holding the ball up front intelligently, Wednesday continued to ask one or two questions of Wigan’s defence. After a neat lay off by Stevie May, Jose Semedo burst forward and unleashed a rasping right foot shot which struck the right hand upright, with Chris Maguire’s follow up well blocked by Scott Carson.
It was the visitors who opened the scoring in the 26th minute as Chris McCann headed in James McClean’s corner following sloppy marking by Wednesday.
But their joy was short-lived when MAY coolly sidefooted home from close range a minute later after a lovely back heel by Nuhiu.
The Owls almost completed the turnaround before the half hour mark when Helan raced on to Drenthe’s clever through ball but the left-back fired straight at Carson.
With things livening up, McManaman tried his luck from distance only to be denied by Westwood, who gathered the strike at the second attempt.
Westwood again had to be alert to deny Marc-Antoine Fortune after a dangerous delivery towards the back post by McClean.
Ivan Ramis became the first player to be cautioned after the Wigan defender cynically brought down Nuhiu out wide.
Wednesday’s inability to deal effectively with corners almost cost them dearly in the 52nd minute when McClean’s header was hacked off the line by home debutant Lewis McGugan after Leon Barnett headed on Ben Watson’s delivery.
They had not heeded their lesson and McCann should have hit the target moments later after another Watson delivery.
McGugan drilled over a free kick following a late tackle by Barnett on Liam Palmer, which earned him a yellow card.
MAY, an £800,000 signing from St Johnstone in the summer, grabbed his second in the 71st minute, glancing in Maguire’s centre after great persistance on the left by Helan. The Scotland international’s header cannoned off both posts before the linesman adjudged his effort to have crossed the line.
Wigan nearly responded immediately through winger McManaman, who flashed a shot narrowly wide.
It took a last ditch challenge by Latics substitute James Perch to stop May from claiming his hat-trick after good build up play by Nuhiu and Maguire.
In a pulsating finish, McGugan, who grew in stature after the break, volleyed straight at Carson while Palmer produced a fine clearance to thwart Roger Espinoza at the back post after McClean outpaced Lees.
Espinoza fired over in the dying minutes but Wednesday held on to clinch maximum points.
Wednesday: Westwood; Palmer, Lees, Loovens, Helan; Drenthe, Semedo, McGugan, Maguire; May, Nuhiu. Substitutes: Kirkland, Lee, Maghoma, McCabe, Dielna, Corry, Lavery.
Wigan Athletic: Carson; Boyce, Barnett, Ramis, Taylor; McManaman, McCann, Watson, Forshaw, McLean; Fortune. Substitutes: Nicholls, Riera, Huws, Espinoza, Perch, Figueroa, Delort.