Giles Coke ended a 20-month exile to help Sheffield Wednesday climb out of the Championship relegation zone after a dramatic Yorkshire derby triumph over Hull City.
For the 26-year-old last played in the League for the Owls in April, 2011, before being farmed out on loan twice, to Bury last season and Swindon Town this campaign.
Coke only came back to Hillsborough because injury ruled him out for four months, and he only returned to training 10 days ago.
So Coke was stunned when Owls chief Dave Jones asked him to take over from the suspended David Prutton for the Yorkshire derby at the KC Stadium.
“It’s been so frustrating the last 18 months but I’ve kept going, I’ve not showed any bad attitude and just kept going,” said Coke, after the win lifted the Owls into 21st place.
“I had to go on loan, I did well, and now I’m finally playing. I’m delighted to be back and all I wanted to do was play for Wednesday. I’m very happy.
“I thought my time at Wednesday was coming to an end. It was 18 months before I started a League game so I was thinking all sorts.
“I’ve been on loan twice so you feel like you are not wanted. But I believe in my ability and I got a game.
“I knew I was playing on Friday. I played a reserve game on Tuesday and I was shocked to be playing as I’ve been injured for four months.”
Coke should have been celebrating a goal on his return, only for referee Mark Haywood to rule dangerous play when he nipped in before Tigers goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic to prod the ball home.
That would have made it 2-0 to the Owls in front of a 16,531 crowd, after Reda Johnson had given the visitors a first-half lead.
But Robert Koren headed an 83rd-minute equaliser, only for Jakupovic to drop Miguel Llera’s corner over his own line before the Tigers goalkeeper was stretchered off with a head injury after a subsequent collision with the on-rushing Johnson.
Sheffield-born Mark Oxley took over the gloves but he was soon picking the ball out of the net as Michail Antonio raced away for a late third goal to complete a miserable evening for the Tigers.
“It’s a massive result,” said Coke. “We came with a game plan and it worked. We knew they would have a lot of possession but we played it really well.
“We have good players at this club. I know the League does not lie but we have good players and will pick it up.”
Coke was celebrating off the pitch with team-mates when Haywood ruled his ‘goal’ out and he said: “I was celebrating like it was the first goal I’ve ever scored. But when it was disallowed I was gutted.
“First, I thought I was offside but then they told me it was for a high boot. It was a hard game for the referee. He struggled a bit. Maybe it was not one of his best games but that’s football.”
Coke’s contract is up in the summer but he hopes to keep his place, starting tomorrow in the FA Cup third round replay at MK Dons, and impress Jones enough to earn a new Hillsborough deal. “Who knows what will happen?” said Coke, who played in the first two rounds of the Capital One Cup for Wednesday in August before his loan to Swindon. “You can be really low one day and high the next. I’ll keep working hard. Football’s a funny game.
“We need to keep it up now and believe in ourselves. I believe we’ve got enough in the dressing room and have a good manager and want to push up the table.
“We want to keep going in the Cup and build momentum. Let’s do the same on Tuesday.”
Coke’s inclusion was one of six changes for the Owls, the Tigers changing their entire outfield, after both clubs’ FA Cup exertions seven days previously. Only Jakupovic retained his starting place for Hull.
Neither side named a recognised centre-forward, Wednesday opting for the pace of wingers Antonio and Jermaine Johnson, Hull the trickery of Sone Aluko and Robert Koren.
Wednesday produced the first meaningful attack, Jermaine Johnson and Antonio combining before the former launched a 25-yard effort which Jakupovic tipped round his right-hand post.
Miguel Llera needed to sweep up at the back as Aluko tore through the centre, shrugging off the attentions of former Hull defender Anthony Gardner.
The Owls took a surprise lead in the 25th minute. Jeremy Helan forced a foul and from the resulting free-kick, Rhys McCabe’s cross was glanced home by left-back Reda Johnson.
The Owls should have been 2-0 up after a swift counter-attack following several Hull corners. Kirkland released Jermaine Johnson, who played in Antonio, whose first touch was terrible, allowing Jakupovic to race off his line and smother the shot.
Hull’s Elmohamady headed wide from a corner and Jermaine Johnson forced another save from Jakupovic.
Stephen Quinn’s header from Elmohamady’s right-wing cross was off target, before Kirkland came out on top in a one-on-one battle with Koren.
Then came Coke’s disallowed ‘goal’ before the equaliser in the 83rd minute, Brady crossing from the right and Koren nipping in front of his marker to glance his header beyond Kirkland.
Jakupovic’s howler put Wednesday back in front and Antonio secured victory for the Owls late in the 14 minutes of stoppage time when he rounded Oxley and tapped the ball home.
Jay Simpson was then upended by Helan but the substitute was thwarted from the penalty spot as Kirkland dived correctly to his right. It just summed up Hull chief Steve Bruce’s day.
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Saturday 18 May 2013
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