What a time to bring up your century.
Steven Fletcher netted the 100th league goal of his career to help Sheffield Wednesday secure their maiden away win of the campaign.
It was the Owls’ first victory on the road since April 2 and the result maintained last season’s Championship Play-Off finalists upward momentum. Carlos Carvalhal’s charges had gone nine matches without picking up maximum points away from Hillsborough.
Last night’s result means Wednesday have won four out of their last five outings and are within touching distance of the top-six positions.
Carvalhal’s troops were well organised defensively and created the better chances. Had their finishing been up to scratch, the final scoreline would have been more convincing.
It wasn’t always pretty but effective.
Ultimately, Wednesday did what they have not managed all season on their travels and that’s grind out the three points.
As is the norm, Carvalhal kept everyone guessing with his team selection. He handed first-team recalls to Liam Palmer, Will Buckley and David Jones, with Jack Hunt, Ross Wallace and Fernando Forestieri dropping to the bench.
Tom Lees started at centre-back after recovering from an illness while midfield playmaker Barry Bannan passed a late fitness test on a foot problem which forced him off in Saturday’s victory over Nottingham Forest. However, Daniel Pudil (thigh) missed out for the third fixture on the spin.
Aside from a meaty challenge by Sam Hutchinson to stop Rovers dangerman Marvin Emnes scampering clear out wide in the fifth minute, little happened early on. Emnes, a lively figure for the hosts, received treatment for several minutes but was fit enough to continue.
At a subdued Ewood Park, Lees hooked a dangerous Emnes delivery away from inside the six-yard box before former Owls loanee Ben Marshall saw his rasping right foot drive from distance turned behind by Keiren Westwood as the hosts kept pressing hard for the opener.
But against the run of play, Fletcher bagged his third goal in Owls colours midway through the half. After collecting Bannan’s pass, he flicked the ball with his first touch and his second was devastating as he fired past Jason Steele with the aid of a deflection. It was a piece of individual brilliance by Fletcher and he slid on to his knees and waved his arms aloft to celebrate in front of the travelling fans.
Oozing class, confidence and self belief, Fletcher almost claimed his second of the evening in the 30th minute. His deft turn bamboozled Rovers defence before unleashing a fierce long range shot which whistled narrowly wide.
But it certainly wasn’t all one way traffic and Sam Gallagher headed captain Jason Lowe’s tesing cross on to the top of the net to remind the visitors that they could ill-afford to sit on their lead.
Some of the Owls’ football was of the highest standard and Palmer came agonisingly close to doubling their advantage after lovely play by Adam Reach and Buckley. The full-back’s attempt deflected inches off target.
Moments later, Bannan, who was pulling the strings in midfield, clipped the outside of the post with a 30-yard piledriver.
Rovers, chasing a third straight win, almost caught Wednesday napping at the other end, with Emnes seeing his scuffed volley tipped over by Westwood following a poor header by makeshift left-back Reach.
Shortly after the re-start, the hosts made a tactical change, throwing on Danny Graham on to beef up their forward line. Yet it was the Owls who had the first meaningful sight on goal as Kieran Lee’s ambitious strike went agonisingly over.
Wednesday were forced into a defensive reshuffle when Hutchinson suffered a knock, meaning Glenn Loovens was introduced for the second consecutive match as a sub.
Then Carvalhal’s men had a great chance to finish Blackburn off on the counter attack. Gary Hooper released Buckley, who failed to force Steele into action when well-placed.
Try as they might, the Owls couldn’t find a killer second. Lee latched on to Bannan’s incisive pass in the 78th minute only to be denied by the agility of Steele.
It nearly came back to bite them when Emnes slammed home from close range but his joy was cut short by the linesman’s flag.
Blackburn: Steele; Lowe (Feeney 76), Hoban, Greer, Williams; Marshall, Evans, Guthrie (Lenihan 68), Conway; Emnes, Gallagher (Graham 56). Substitutes: Raya, Samuelsen, Akpan, Brown.
Owls: Westwood; Palmer, Lees, Hutchinson (Loovens 60), Reach; Buckley, Lee, Jones, Bannan; Hooper (Forestieri 73), Fletcher (Nuhiu 81). Substitutes: Dawson, Abdi, Hunt, Wallace.
Attendance: 12,844, (2,752)
Referee: Simon Hooper (Wiltshire)