It’’s a ‘yes’ from everyone … the story of Lucas Joao’s Owls comeback: Sheffield Wednesday 2 Ipswich Town 1

Match-winner Lucas Joao. Pictures: Steve Ellis
Match-winner Lucas Joao. Pictures: Steve Ellis

The day before the game, he wasn't even sure he would be playing.

Lucas Joao hadn't featured for Sheffield Wednesday since the opening day of the season because of a groin injury.

Celebration time

Celebration time

But manager Jos Luhukay asked the striker 24 hours before kick-off if he was ready to feature against Ipswich Town and the Portugal international said he was.

Sixteen minutes of the Championship clash with the Tractor Boys had gone when the 25-year-old opened the scoring. 13 were left when he bagged the winner.

Two goals for Joao, two wins in four days for the Owls. Player and club back in business.

The attacker couldn't be certain early on Friday morning that he was ready. "If the physios say 'yes', I say 'yes'," he said at the pre-match press conference before a training session which told everyone what they needed to know.

The first goal

The first goal

Manager Jos Luhukay, whose team have cllmbed to 13th in the table, said: "I had to wait until the end of the training on Friday and I ask Lucas: 'How do you feel? Can you help us? Can you play from the beginning? Can you play in the last part of the game when you might be needed?'"

So many questions before Joao came up with the answers.

THE GAME

Wednesday won, and that's all that matters. It wasn't a vintage performance, but, just like they had done in a much better display in midweek against Millwall, they dug it out.

Lucas Joao

Lucas Joao

After two defeats and a draw in their opening three league matches, a response was needed. This was an important week for the Owls, a pivotal week when their season was going to turn one way or the other, and two successive victories have done the trick.

The contest had gone nowhere until Joao lost his marker, Trevoh Chalobah, at the back post to head home Barry Bannan's right-flank corner.

The scorer's delight was obvious as he wheeled away at the Leppings Lane end, arms out in aeroplane-style celebration, sporting a smile as big as the impact he would have on the result.

Contrast that to the mood at half-time when referee Jeremy Simpson walked off chatting away to his two assistants pretending for all he was worth that he wasn't being roundly booed by three sides of the ground.

He'd allowed an Ipswich header to stand in the 40th minute despite suggestions of offside when Aristote Nsiala took advantage of Cameron Dawson's hesitation in coming out.

"I have been asking all my colleagues. It's difficult," Luhukay said. "I have not seen in the game whether it was offside or not and I have not seen the clips back. 

"The referee and the linesman decided and you must accept that. At the end, we have won so we can live it with that."

Replays later showed a Town player was infringing, but it wasn't the scorer and the offender wasn't really interfering with play.

After Marco Matias had missed horribly when Dawson's long kick has sprung him clear and Bannan's goalbound shot had been blocked a yard from going in by Jonas Knudsen, it was time for Joao to apply the finishing touch the home side's second-half pressure deserved.

He hit the post with his initial header then headed once more, and his beam was turned up to full brightness again as he realised the ball had crossed the line before Atdhe Nuhiu made sure.

A new contract in the bag, back in the side, his first goals since April, the game won. Not so much a 'yes' this time as 'yy-ee-sss!'.

The Owls' cause had been helped minutes earlier when Nsiala was sent off for a challenge on substitute Fernando Forestieri. The centre-half clearly and fairly won the ball but it was the raised studs afterwards which had the ref - harshly, in my opinion - seeing red.

"The referee is very close in the moment when the defender goes in on Fernando," Luhukay said. "It was hard (to judge), but the referee is near and makes this decision. 

"It was not easier in the last 15 minutes against 10 men. It was too hectic. We didn't control the game with one player more. The game was very fast. There were a lot of long balls. We have to focus 100 per cent."

Ipswich boss Paul Hurst, a boyhood Wednesday fan not enjoying being back at Hillsborough, dodged an FA rap while making it clear how he felt.

"I don’t feel I need to say anything," he said. "Everyone’s seen it."

JOS THE BOSS

Luhukay treats those twin imposters just the same. Win or lose, his demeanour hardly changes, although last Wednesday's first league triumph of the season had understandably lifted him.

At the end, as others hugged and high-fived, he stood quietly in his technical area then, in a rare show of public emotion, took one hand out of his pocket and headed down the tunnel.

"Maybe it wasn't a bad decision to bring Lucas straight in," was as much praise as he allowed himself. "We are very happy that Lucas was available after his injury. We see how important he is in moments in the game. 

"He's a player who isn't always predictable for himself or his teammates so his opponents don't know what he will do. He helped us win."

Joao, big, bright, beaming Joao, hates doing press, despite being as friendly a character as you could wish to meet, and had to be coaxed into talking outside the players' entrance afterwards.

"It wasn't too bad," he grinned. "I am happy to score two goals to help the team. But the most important thing was the collective work.

"The confidence is better when you are winning games. The environment of the team is very good at the moment and I hope we can keep going in this way."

A minute after his winner, he'd left the action, his job well done, to a standing ovation as the stadium rose in acclaim of contribution.

Not just the physios and player saying 'yes', the fans too.

Wednesday (4-3-3): Dawson; Palmer, Lees, Thorniley, Penney; Reach, Pelupessy, Bannan; Matias (Forestieri 73), Nuhiu, Joao (Fletcher 78). Subs not used: Wildsmith, Baker, Fox, Hutchinson, Kirby.

Ipswich (4-1-4-1): Bialkowski; Donacien, Nsiala, Chambers, Knudsen; Chalobah; Edwards, Edun (Downes 78), Nolan, Harrison (Sears 85); Jackson. Subs not used: Gerken, Spence, Ward, Roberts, Kenlock.

Goals: Joao 16, 77 (Wednesday); Nsiala 40 (Ipswich).

Referee: Jeremy Simpson (Lancashire).

Attendance: 22,499.

Column: Why I love Barry Bannan