Owls match report: Sheffield Wednesday 3 Cardiff City 0

Lucas Joao sees his shot blocked
Lucas Joao sees his shot blocked

Gary Hooper was the star of the show as Sheffield Wednesday booked their place in the Championship play-offs after a deserved 3-0 win over nearest challengers Cardiff City.

The centre forward, a £3m buy from Norwich City in January, scored the Owls' first goal and created the second to ensure the Owls secured a top-six finish with a match to spare.

Alex Lopez tries to get another Owls attack going.

Alex Lopez tries to get another Owls attack going.

Hooper fired Wednesday ahead in the 64th minute after Bluebirds skipper David Marshall failed to hang on to Daniel Pudil's shot.

With quarter of an hour remaining, a Lee Peltier own goal increased Wednesday's advantage to spark wild celebrations among the home contingent.

And in the dying minutes, Hooper wrapped up the win, deftly lobbing the advancing Marshall after Cardiff switched off defensively to bag his 13th goal of the campaign.

Head coach Carlos Carvalhal opted to freshen up his forward line, bringing in Lucas Joao at the expense of Aiden McGeady, who was a notable absentee from the match-day squad. It meant a tactical rejig with Joao partnering Gary Hooper up front and Fernando Forestieri switching to the left flank.

Sam Hutchinson was included on the substitutes bench, having recovered from a bout of glandular fever.

Cardiff, needing maximum points to keep their slender promotion hopes alive, also made one alteration. With Joe Ralls sidelined by a thigh injury, Kagisho Dikgacoi returned in midfield.

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At a noisy, jam-packed Hillsborough, Wednesday started on the front foot and almost took the lead afgter five minutes. Skipper Glenn Loovens, playing against his old club, powered a bullet header over the top following a dangerous corner by Alex Lopez.

The Owls continued to dominate the early skirmishes and Daniel Pudil drilled over following a great move involving Jack Hunt and Gary Hooper.

Cardiff just couldn't get a foothold in the contest and had to make an enforced change when Anthony Pilkington was forced off with an injury and replaced by Sammy Ameobi.

Hooper was desperately unlucky not to open the scoring in the 21st minute after Joao made a nuisance of himself. The striker glided forward before unleashing a rasping right foot shot from distance which struck David Marshall's left hand upright.

As an attacking force, Cardiff barely threatened. The only sight of goal they had in the opening half an hour came from Craig Noone, who cut infield and saw his low drive comfortably held by Keiren Westwood.

Things began to settle down and Barry Bannan, named in the PFA Championship Team of the Year, curled off target before Kenneth Zohore wasted a glorious chance to test the reflexes of Westwood after a good spell of pressure from the visitors.

It took some good defending from Loovens to deny Ameobi a sight at goal as the Bluebirds briefly upped the ante.

Despite playing out of position, Forestieri, the Owls' 15-goal top-scorer, looked lively and he ballooned over a free-kick after being unceremoniously brought down by Matthew Connolly, who was booked.

But Wednesday didn't have things all their own way and Noone dribbled inside before seeing his tame effort gathered by Westwood at the second time of asking.

Not long after Hooper's strike, Carvalhal elected to take off Forestieri. The little forward, who had been yellow carded in the first period, was given a big round of applause by three sides of the ground.

Atdhe Nuhiu, Forestieri's replacement, could have scored with his first touch, steering a header straight at Marshall from close range.

Hooper was the architect of Wednesday's second, dispossessing Marshall out wide and firing towards goal. His attempt took a huge deflection off Connolly and Peltier tried in vain to hack it away from the goal-line but only succeeded in firing into his own net.

The margin of victory could have been even greater but Marshall foiled Portugal international Joao in the closing stages following a superb through ball by Bannan.

Peltier had to be alert to clear Jack Hunt's dangerous centre before Peter Whittingham curled a free-kick narrowly wide in the dying minute to compound Cardiff's woes.

It was left to Hooper to add extra gloss to the scoreline late on.

Owls: Westwood; Hunt, Lees, Loovens, Pudil (Helan 81); Bannan, Lee, Lopez, Forestieri (Nuhiu 70); Joao, Hooper. Substitutes: Wildsmith, Palmer, Turner, Hutchinson, Matias.

Cardiff: Marshall; Peltier, Morrison (Ecuele Manga 62), Connolly, Malone; Noone, Dikgacoi, (Harris 72), O'Keefe, Whittingham; Pilkington (Ameobi 20), Zohore. Substitutes: Moore, Turner, Gunnarsson, Lawrence.

Attendance: 31,843

Referee: Paul Tierney (Lancashire)

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