VIDEO: Sheffield Wednesday verdict and reaction - Owls 4 Brentford 0
These really are exciting times to be a Wednesday fan.
Home or away, the team are playing a swashbuckling, entertaining, winning brand of football, leading to the club sitting in their highest league position - at this point of a season - since dropping out of the Premier League in 2000.
Saturday’s resounding victory over Brentford was their biggest home win of the campaign and sixth in their last seven outings at Hillsborough.
They are now the highest-scoring team in the Championship both at home (32) and overall (49), boast the best shot conversation rate of 38.6 per cent in the division and 15 different players have found the back of the net this term.
In Fernando Forestieri, Gary Hooper and Portugal international Lucas Joao, the Owls have serious firepower in their ranks now. Throw in Atdhe Nuhiu, who can be so awkward for opponents to handle due his tall frame and tireless work off the ball, and you have got a potent forward line which is capable of troubling any backline at this level.
Since losing at home to promotion rivals Middlesbrough last August, the Owls have gone 15 matches without defeat in front of their supporters in all competitions.
Given Wednesday recorded a meagre five victories and netted just 16 times on home soil last season, it has been a staggering turnaround in their Hillsborough fortunes.
Head coach Carlos Carvalhal claims his team are one of the best footballing sides in the second tier and it is difficult to argue with the Portuguese tactician, who Owls fans have taken to their hearts.
It is just a shame more supporters are not coming along to enjoy the ride.
Almost six months after joining Carvalhal’s revolution, Daniel Pudil, Michael Turner, Barry Bannan and Forestieri still don’t know what it is like to lose at Hillsborough.
Before I go any further in waxing lyrical over the Owls’ 10th home success, I should clear up the big talking point from the weekend’s clash.
Both managers were left with differing opinions on the sending-off of Yoann Barbet. The Frenchman received the first red card of his pro career in the fifth minute after bringing down Hooper.
The striker shrugged off Barbet’s attentions, racing on to Tom Lees’ clearance before taking a heavy touch after a 30-yard run. He appeared to lose control of the ball but Barbet, tracking back at full speed, made contact with Hooper, putting his left arm across him.
There was definite contact and Barbet denied a goal-scoring opportunity. He was the last line of Brentford’s defence so had to go.
“I think that the red card was very clear,” said Carvalhal. “Gary Hooper is going through on goal, there’s a fault, he’s alone, it’s one on one. It was very clear. He went through on goal, he took a foul from the back; it’s a red card.”
For Brentford chief Dean Smith, it was a “poor” decision and the former Wednesday player accused referee Graham Scott of guessing over the key call.
He said: “The result is a consequence of something we have no control over.
“I have seen it and I can see why they appealed for it.I don’t think Gary Hooper has the ball under control. By the time he hits the ground it is in my goalkeeper’s arms. He had a big touch, probably felt the presence behind him and has gone down rather easily.
“If would have been more plausible to us if the linesman had made that decision because I think it is impossible for the referee to give it.
“The thing for me is that the referee guessed. I don’t think he was even in our half when he gave the decision.
“He didn’t ask his linesman who was square on to the incident. He has guessed and made a poor decision.”
Before Barbet’s dismissal, Brentford had made the stronger start, with Nico Yennaris missing a glorious chance after latching on to Alan Judge’s clever through ball.
Judge, a January transfer target for the Owls, also forced Keiren Westwood into action but the Bees’ game-plan had to be completely altered after Barbet saw red.
“The game changed on the sending-off and the result hinged on something that we can’t control,” added Smith.
It took Wednesday just seven minutes to make their numerical advantage count, top scorer Forestieri nodding in Pudil’s deflected delivery. It was fitting on Valentine’s Day weekend Forestieri celebrated his 12th goal of the season by making the heart gesture with his hands to the home faithful. They certainly adore him.
Supporters of both clubs observed a minute’s applause on the 28th minute in memory of Owls fan and season-ticket-holder Darren Haigh, who died of cancer last month. Known as Daz, Haigh was 28 years old.
Seconds after Wednesday had finished paying tribute to one of their own, Hooper doubled the hosts’ lead, blasting an unstoppable half-volley past David Button following a goalkick by Keiren Westwood. Assist number three of his career for Westwood!
It was a truly stunning finish by Hooper and he played a vital part in their third, just before the interval. He neatly headed down Bannan’s clipped ball into the path of Kieran Lee, who smartly turned Harlee Dean before prodding home.
Smith bemoaned: “We knew that they were going to have a lot of the ball but the goals that we gave away were inexcusable.”
It was damage-limitation time for Brentford.
Wednesday continued to pass and probe but the second half was a bit of an anti-climax until Joao’s belter late on capped off a fine afternoon’s work.
Carvalhal said: “The match was a warm exhibition on a cold day.”
The Owls are up to fifth, are seven league matches unbeaten and no Championship side has picked up more points than them from the last 10 fixtures.
If the Owls carry on performing in this manner, Wednesday fans may not have to wait too much longer to see their team back in the big time.
Wednesday: Westwood 7; Hunt 7, Sasso 7, Lees 7, Pudil 7; Wallace 7 (McGugan 74), Bannan 9, Lee 8, Forestieri 7; Nuhiu 7 (McGeady 62, 7), Hooper 8 (Joao 80). Substitutes: Price, Turner, Semedo, Bennett.
Brentford: Button 7; Colin 7, Dean 5, Barbet 5, Bidwell 6; Canos 6 (Saunders H-T, 6), Woods 5, Kerschbaumer 5 (O’Connell 8, 6), Yennaris 7 (McEachran 82); Judge 6, Hofmann 6. Substitutes: Bonham, Macleod, Swift, Vibe.
Referee: Graham Scott (Oxfordshire).