Sheffield Wednesday: Owls hold on for vital win

Sheffield Wednesday v Barnsley......GOAL.....reda Johnson heads Owls second goal
Sheffield Wednesday v Barnsley......GOAL.....reda Johnson heads Owls second goal

CLICHÉ alert! ‘Goals change games’, apparently. No truer words have ever been spoken about a football match.

However, the two main protagonists in Saturday’s South Yorkshire derby, Wednesday boss Dave Jones and Barnsley manager David Flitcroft had widely different views on a game that they’d watched separated by just a few feet of technical area turf at Hillsborough.

In his post-match press conference Jones scoffed at suggestions that Chris Kirkland’s stunning save from Reds’ sub Reuben Noble-Lazarus 30 yard strike after 61 minutes was the turning point in a match that the visitors had slightly shaded up to that point.

Jones preferred to point out the two goals that Wednesday scored shortly afterwards through Gary Madine on 65 minutes and Reda Johnson 12 minutes later as the defining moments.

And who could argue?

Well Flitcroft could, and did.

He said: “I thought it was definitely the turning point. They couldn’t deal with Reuban, Jacob Mellis or Jason Scotland.

“It was a wonderful strike, but what a save. I don’t know how he picked up the flight because I was behind it and it’s moved twice.

“It’s hit Kirky (Chris Kirkland) on the arm. It was brilliant. If we get 1-0 up then it’s a different complexion on the game. But we didn’t.”

A Barnsley goal around the hour mark would have felt just about right.

After Kirkland’s first heroics he was called into another equally impressive stop a couple of minutes later from a low drive by Scotland.

Noble-Lazarus and Scotland had both been brought on by Flitcroft to press home Reds ever-so slight superiority. But it was a Wednesday sub who fashioned the opening goal.

Jermaine Johnson played a clever ball to right back Lewis Buxton who was flying down the wing.

Buxton’s low cross in front of the Kop was perfect for Gary Madine to slide in the ball off the far post.

If ever a player deserved a goal for his performance then it was Madine, who took on board Jones’ challenge to prove he can be the man to shoot Wednesday to Championship survival by turning in a mature display.

He had won almost every header during a first half that saw Wednesday opt to try and find him at every opportunity and Barnsley try and pass their way through on a surface that is in desperate need of the summer despite the sterling work of the Hillsborough groundsman.

Less mature by Madine was the needless booking he picked up for showing an advertisement for a friend’s business under his shirt after he’d scored.

As the Owls found out later, yellow cards can come back to haunt you.

Wednesday’s second came after yet another replacement had made an impact.

Giles Coke came on for loanee Stuart Holden on 62 minutes and was arguably the Owls best player thereafter.

It was Coke’s surging run, crudely ended by a Martin Cranie challenge, that led to Miguel Llera’s lovely flighted free kick deep into the Barnsley box.

Reda Johnson couldn’t believe his luck as he had all the time in the world to plant a header past Steele’s left hand.

Wednesday third substitute, Chris Maguire for Leroy Lita, on 81 minutes almost brought about a hat-trick of success for Jones.

Maguire’s first contribution was three minutes later when his cross was blocked by Reds defender Bobby Hassell’s face. Unfortunately for Hassell and his team referee Mr Salisbury thought it was his hand and awarded a penalty.

Perhaps, as he admitted later, thinking too much about scoring his 50th career goal Gary Madine produced a poor penalty wide of Steele’s left hand post.

It would have been harsh on Barnsley to go 3-0 down in such quick time.

It also wouldn’t be Wednesday to make life easy for their biggest crowd of the season - home or away.

Still, it should have been a canter to the finish line but an earlier booking to Buxton for obstructing a marauding Jim O’Brien in the first half proved significant three minutes from the end of normal time.

Buxton was too eager to charge down a Scotland free kick 25 yards from the Wednesday goal and was shown a second yellow card by a referee keen to produce something as red as the ball mark on Hassell’s face.

Nerves were further frayed on the display of six additional minutes by the fourth official.

And it was hardly a surprise, except maybe to the Barnsley fans, when Kirkland was finally beaten by Mellis’ well hit right foot shot in the 92 minute.

There were a couple of scares for Wednesday in the dying moments of the match as the Reds pushed for an equaliser. On the whole though the Owls just about deserved the victory for the way they overpowered Barnsley after Kirkland’s saves.

And while Jones’ comments were probably right, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Flitcroft was wrong.

Goals do change games, but so does missing them too.

As Jones said: “It (Kirkland’s save) was one incident in a second half when we should have been well out of sight. Missing the penalty gave them a bit of hope.

“It was all about getting three points today.”

The voice of experience.