Sheffield Wednesday: High fives as Forestieri leads the master-class: Owls 5 Norwich City 1
Hello, Sheffield Wednesday, it's nice to see you back again.
And, back with a bang as well.
All of the criticisms - a large part of them completely warranted - that had been thrown in the direction of the team this season were batted away on Saturday with a memorable 5-1 victory over Norwich City.
Batted away with such velocity that it will have sent shockwaves through the Championship. The free-flowing, attack-minded, entertaining Sheffield Wednesday were back.
No slow start. No missed chances. No needless sideways passing. No keeping the ball for the sake of it. No sloppy defensive mistakes. No sitting back on a lead. No failure to create chances for the frontmen.
Each awkward question asked of Wednesday by critics was answered in one 90-odd minute display of sublime football, the like of which we had hoped to see, but hadn’t yet this season.
It would be easy to ask why it’s taken until March for it to finally happen, but that matters little. If you are going to start turning it on, why not at the time of the season when it truly matters?
When Ross Wallace let fly with a thunderous exocet of a shot with John Ruddy off his line, fans will have known something special was coming up.
Jordan Rhodes doubled the lead to add more of a lift with the striker having missed a penalty last week.
Even though Cameron Jerome pulled one back, there was no panic and arguably the most important goal arrived through Morgan Fox, five minutes before the break, which made sure any sign of the Canaries finding their wings, was banished.
Rhodes’ second, latching on to a beautiful cross from the hugely impressive Barry Bannan, turned the match into a rout that no-one really saw coming before kick-off and then the irrepressible Fernando Forestieri sent a 25 yard free-kick into the top corner to put the icing on the sweetest of cakes.
HUNT SETS TONE
In the grand scheme of things, it was a somewhat forgettable moment given what would transpire, but it should be noted. Eight minutes into the match, after a positive start, Jack Hunt sent a great ball into the box which was narrowly cleared, with Sam Winnall lurking. It was the type of ball that fans had been itching to see - dangerous, pacey and, most importantly, it was sent in early.
One of those barbs Wednesday have had to contend with has been the inability to provide service to the strikers, to put a cross into the box that will have defences clambering. Hunt provided that and it lifted the crowd, setting the tone for wave after wave of attacks.
This wasn’t just Fernando Forestieri back to the form shown last season ... it was better than that. The forward who, it has to be said, has been disappointing by his standards this campaign, was everywhere.
He was positioned on the left but Norwich didn’t know where he was going to end up and he gave them a headache all day.
Perhaps what was crucial to that was the impressive showing by Fox. The former Charlton defender brought a confidence to that side which meant Forestieri was able to do what he had to do, safe in the knowledge that Fox had him well covered on that flank.
As is the norm, he was kicked from pillar to post, but kept getting up and going again, wreaking havoc with every run and not giving the visitors a moment’s peace, picking their pockets and setting up more attacks.
Wallace was delighted to see Forestieri on the scoresheet but his words came with a warning. “Fernando is one of those players, when he is on form, who is so hard to play against,” he said.“Even when he is closed down, he is so fast. The opposition try and control the ball and he comes in behind them (and steals it). He was fantastic, but he has to play like that every single week.”
ROSS IS BOSS
Callum McManaman’s arrival has improved the squad and, more notably, it’s improved Wallace. While the winger wasn’t playing any worse than most, his game has upped considerably in recent weeks. The goal on Saturday was sublime and shows what he’s capable of.
Then again, that could be said for everyone in a blue shirt on Saturday.
This is what they’re all capable of.