Sheffield Wednesday 6 Bristol Rovers 2: Owls impress watching Milan

MILAN MANDARIC opted not to walk on the hallowed Hillsborough turf before Saturday's match as he did not want his appearance causing a distraction to the Sheffield Wednesday players.

For the Serbian-born businessman will this week complete a long-awaited takeover of the troubled Owls, who are awash with new-found optimism.

It was expected Mandaric would be introduced to the Wednesday fans on the pitch before kick-off, but the former Portsmouth owner opted instead for a more low-profile welcome as he slipped into the directors' box.

But that did not stop a two-minute standing ovation from the long-suffering Owls supporters. Yet nothing ever seems to run smoothly at Hillsborough, so there was this nagging feeling the club may once more shoot themselves in the foot and the team fail to match the off-field celebrations.

And it certainly looked that way when former Rotherham United striker Will Hoskins nodded home after just six minutes. He ghosted in at the far post to connect with Wayne Brown's hopeful cross.

But the goal seemed to galvanise Wednesday, who turned in their most effective performance of the season, smashing Rovers for six, the first four coming in a purple 25-minute spell.

While much has been made of the absence of injured top scorer Neil Mellor, Saturday's win was all about the evergreen Clinton Morrison.

The Republic of Ireland striker was at the heart of all Wednesday's good work, yet remarkably failed to find the net despite six of his team-mates getting on the scoresheet, spurning a hat-trick of chances.

"How Clinton didn't get a hat-trick, I do not know," said Owls manager Alan Irvine. "He is normally such a clinical finisher in front of goal.

"But I thought his performance today was terrific. He worked very hard and caused their defence a lot of problems."

Morrison should have provided an instant response to Hoskins's opener, but scooped over from close range, although the linesman's offside flag spared his blushes that time.

Yet it did not take long for parity to be restored. Three minutes, in fact, when the impressive Gary Teale crossed for Morrison, whose header was parried by Rovers goalkeeper Mikkel Andersen only for Chris Sedgwick to head home the rebound.

It was the Sheffield-born winger's first goal for the club since his summer move from Preston North End.

Teale twice came close to giving Wednesday the lead, but he was first denied by Andersen before his header looped out to Tommy Miller, who skipped away from the referee, Colin Webster, and smacked home a stunning finish.

Former Derby County winger Teale was not to be denied a deserved goal, and when Andersen once again thwarted Morrison, this time from a glancing header, Teale tapped home the third Owls goal.

It took a super solo effort from Jermaine Johnson to pinch some of the spotlight away from Morrison and Teale. The Jamaican winger, pushed up front in the absence of Mellor, waltzed his way through the heart of Bristol Rovers' defence before a clinical finish matched his panache.

Paul Trollope's visitors were intent on attacking, resulting in an entertaining open contest, and made it 4-2 with 25 minutes remaining.

And again it was Hoskins who scored, beating Nicky Weaver with a cross-cum-shot, after the Owls goalkeeper had earlier denied Jeff Hughes and Chris Lines.

With Mellor, Jon Otsemobor, Giles Coke and Lewis Buxton all missing through injury, Owls chief Alan Irvine was forced to include

three youngsters on the bench, but it was two of his more experienced reserves who added further goals to seal a splendid afternoon's work.

First James O'Connor played a one-two with Morrison, before striking in a rasping shot, then Paul Heffernan raced away to complete the scoring and open his Owls account after having struggled to make an impact since his summer move from Doncaster Rovers.

Teale struck the crossbar and Morrison somehow contrived to hit the inside of the post with the goal at his mercy, as Wednesday cruised to victory.

The win put the Owls just three points behind League One leaders Brighton and Irvine revealed how he used the presence of Mandaric to help motivate his players.

Irvine said: "I am really pleased on what has been a marvellous day for Sheffield Wednesday.

"What Milan has done for this club is fantastic. There was a really positive feeling around the ground before the game and I said that to the players in the dressing room.

"They played really well and I thought that was our best attacking performance of the season. I think we have played better overall but today we scored six and could have had another six."

Sheffield Wednesday: Weaver, Jones, Purse, Beevers, Spurr, Sedgwick, Miller (Palmer 83), Potter (O'Connor 70), Teale, Johnson (Heffernan 65), Morrison. Unused substitutes: Jameson, Hinds, Modest, Boden.

Bristol Rovers: Andersen, Sawyer, Lines, Coles, Tunnicliffe, Campbell, Hughes (Akinde 59), Brown (Swallow 59), Anthony, Hoskins, Kuffour (Reece 84). Unused substitutes: Green, Richards, Clough, Pell.

Referee: C Webster (Tyne and Wear).

MATCH FOCUS

Hero: Milan Mandaric

On a day when Wednesday produced their best display of the season, this was Milan's moment. The future certainly looks bright for the Owls under their new owner.

Villain: Clinton Morrison

Owls striker missed a hat-trick of easy chances, but to be fair to Morrison, he more than made up for that with a tireless display and three welcome assists.

Key moment

2.55pm: Milan Mandaric makes his way to the directors' box and brings a standing ovation from the faithful.

Ref Watch

Colin Webster: Had the perfect game, was hardly noticed and was a welcome change.

Verdict

Wednesday still need a couple of new additions, namely a striker and a centre-half.

Next game

Exeter v Sheffield Wednesday, Saturday, 3pm, League One.

Quote of the day

Milan's record at Portsmouth and Leicester is excellent and if he can achieve the same success here, then there are very exciting times ahead.

– Sheffield Wednesday manager Alan Irvine on Milan Mandaric.

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