THE derby crowd who made their way to Sheffield last night couldn’t say they hadn’t been given advance warning that drama was in the offing.
Nine months on from the never-to-be-forgotten afternoon that saw Jordan Rhodes net all four goals for Huddersfield Town in a sensational 4-4 draw, these two sides were at it again in spectacular fasion.
Controversy, goals, two penalties, a contender for miss of the season, two red cards and, from a Terriers perspective, a happy ending – this game had just about everything as Hillsborough was treated to another pulsating thriller between these two old Yorkshire rivals.
In the end, goals from Oliver Norwood, Lee Novak and Adam Clayton were enough to send the visitors from Huddersfield home happy.
But that trio of strikes told only a fraction of an amazing night that ended with the Owls and Town reduced to 10 men and referee Graham Salisbury firmly off the Christmas card list of both managers.
Linesman Barry Gordon can also expect few pleasant missives with a S6 postmark after flagging for a hugely contentious 69th-minute handball that led to Adam Clayton scoring what turned out to be the decisive goal from the spot.
The win was enough to nudge Town into the play-off places and underline the sterling start Simon Grayson’s side have made following promotion from League One.
Wednesday may have now slipped to three straight defeats but there was still plenty to take encouragement from last night, not least how they created more chances than the visitors over 90 minutes.
In fact, had Peter Clarke not been at his imperious best in the heart of the Terriers defence then chances are the Owls may well have claimed a point as reward for their attacking endeavours.
Town had initially taken charge of proceedings with two goals in three first-half minutes as Wednesday were punished for some less than stellar defending.
First, Jack Hunt was tripped needlessly by Jermaine Johnson as the Town full-back rampaged down the right flank to leave referee Salisbury with no option but to point to the spot.
It was the third time this season Hunt’s pace in attack had earned Huddersfield a penalty and Oliver Norwood took advantage – eventually – by smashing in the rebound after his initial kick had been blocked by Chris Kirkland.
Coming just seconds after James Vaughan had struck the crossbar with a stunning turn and shot, Huddersfield probably deserved their good fortune.
There was, though, nothing lucky about the visitors’ second on 19 minutes when a deep cross from Danny Ward picked out Lee Novak, who powered an unstoppable header past Kirkland.
Wednesday, just as they had in December after falling two goals behind against the Terriers inside the first quarter, responded eight minutes before the break when Reda Johnson planted a header past Alex Smithies after the visitors had been unable to clear a long throw from Michail Antonio.
Within 60 seconds, Town really did look in trouble when a wild challenge by Joel Lynch on Antonio resulted in the Welsh international being shown a straight red card. Huddersfield manager Grayson was incandescent and he had to be warned by the referee in the dugout before play could resume.
Once his fury had subsided, the Terriers chief responded by withdrawing Lee Novak and bringing on Anthony Gerrard.
It seemed that the visitors would be in for a long evening but then Joe Mattock, who had been booked earlier in the half, was guilty of a reckless tackle on Danny Ward in the fifth and final minute of stoppage time.
Referee Salisbury had no hesitation in brandishing a second yellow to even the sides up as the 25,230 crowd took the opportunity to get their breath back during the interval.
The officials again stepped centre stage just after the midway point of the second half when Rhys McCabe was adjudged by linesman Gordon of handling Hunt’s cross.
It was an offence Salisbury either missed – or chose to miss – but he took the word of his assistant and Clayton drilled the resulting spotkick to the right of Kirkland and into the net.
Two goals down again, Wednesday could have folded.
Credit, therefore, is due for how Dave Jones’s players determindedly stuck to their task in the closing stages.
How the Owls didn’t reduce the arrears seven minutes from time is a question only Reda Johnson can answer after the defender somehow shot wide when faced with an open goal after being picked out by Antonio.
With that, any chance of a fightback to match last December when Rhodes snatched a stoppage time equaliser had gone to leave the Huddersfield fans celebrating once again at the final whistle.
Sheffield Wednesday: Kirkland; Mattock, Taylor, Beevers, R Johnson; Antonio, Semedo (McCabe 63), Barkley, J Johnson; Madine (Pecnik 46), Bothroyd (O’Grady 78). Unused substitutes: Bywater, O’Grady, Rodri, D Jones, Llera.
Huddersfield Town: Smithies; Hunt, P Clarke, Lynch, Dixon; Clayton, Southern, Norwood (Woods 83), Ward; Novak (Gerrard 40), Vaughan (Lee 90). Unused substitutes: Bennett, Scannell, Arfield, Spencer.
Referee: G Salisbury (Lancashire).