Sheffield Wednesday: Brighton trip rekindles memories of tense, nerve-wracking, glorious night in May for Owls stars and Carvalhal

The pressure was relentless.

Friday, 20th January 2017, 5:06 am
Keiren Westwood

Roared on by a passionate crowd, Brighton gave Sheffield Wednesday such a fright in their last encounter at the Amex Stadium eight months ago.

Things are rarely simple with the Owls and Carlos Carvalhal’s side, leading 2-0 after the first leg of their Play-Off Semi-Final encounter with the Seagulls, were forced to dig deep in the opening 25 minutes.

Keiren Westwood

Sam Hutchinson told The Star: “It was all going off and Brighton really went for it like we did in the first leg.”

Brighton threw everything at them and opened the scoring through highly-rated centre-back Lewis Dunk. The Amex was rocking.

“It was the longest 20 minutes I have probably had in my career,” acknowledged Barry Bannan. “It was strange, from the first game in which we were on top so far to going to their place and it just swung completely.

“Our backs were against the wall and it was loud and they got their fans on their side straightaway by scoring early.”

Owls celebrations

Wednesday were on the ropes and grimly hanging on for dear life.

Carvalhal said: “It was a strong beginning by Brighton, who caused big problems, really big problems for the first 25 minutes. We felt a lot of pain in that first 20 to 25 minutes. We saw our lives come back to us before our eyes!”

It was an onslaught and the Owls were indebted to Republic of Ireland international Keiren Westwood for the Seagulls only breaching their defence once during that magical spell.

Owls celebrations

“In the first game, we were brilliant and in the second they were brilliant,” said Hutchinson.

“Fortunately we were better than them over the two legs.”

Ross Wallace’s fortuitous 28th minute strike derailed Brighton’s momentum and the Owls kept their composure to reach the final.

Bannan said: “We did well to get in drawing at half-time. When we scored, while they would have said it didn’t drain them as they were unlucky not to get the second goal, in the second half we were comfortable.

Keiren Westwood

“It did show our steel and what good character we had in the dressing room to come through the other side.

“It was a big game, but a close one as well and it will probably be similar on Friday night.

“We know each other’s styles pretty well as we have played a lot of times over the last few years.”

Bannan and company breathed a huge sigh of relief after sealing their Wembley spot but there was no partying from defensive midfielder Hutchinson after the full-time whistle had been blown.

The 27-year-old, brought on as a half-time substitute against the Seagulls, said: “I went straight for a shower. I didn’t think the job was done so I didn’t celebrate.”

Owls celebrations

The showpiece final proved a step too far for Wednesday as they were edged out by Yorkshire rivals Hull City.

The bookmakers installed Brighton and Wednesday as two of the favourites for promotion and the two clubs have more than lived up to their billing. It is second versus sixth tonight.

Bannan said: “We have got a lot more players fighting for places now. The depth is a lot better than last season and that keeps everyone on their toes. Looking back at this point last season, we were eighth with five less points or something. We have obviously improved on last season, even though it might not feel that way. When you look at the stats, we have.

“We weren’t even in the play-offs at this point last season and we now have five points to spare. We have to hit the ground running now and show we want to get up there.”

There is, as Bannan is keen to point out, more expected of Wednesday this time around.

“We weren’t expected to do as well as we did last season and surprised a few people and probably the supporters,” he said. “We have bought a lot of players and are one of the bigger teams in the league and the pressure is on now and we have let ourselves down in a few games. That’s when people have jumped on us. But for everyone to see, we have got more points, victories and are in a better position.”

Owls celebrations