Owls sweep aside Millers to hint at momentum that is building

Fernanado Forestieri scores Sheffield Wednesday's second goal against Rotherham United that helped them to a 2-1 victory (Picture: Steve Eellis).
Fernanado Forestieri scores Sheffield Wednesday's second goal against Rotherham United that helped them to a 2-1 victory (Picture: Steve Eellis).
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THE DITTY of choice among Sheffield Wednesday supporters right now starts with the words ‘Carlos had a dream, to build our football team’.

Set to the tune of The Beach Boys classic Sloop John B – once famously mangled, of course, by Phil Brown on the pitch at Hull City – the reworking ends with the bold boast, ‘We’re Sheffield Wednesday, we’re on our way back’.

Whether this proves to be a tad previous remains to be seen, certainly in terms of this season.

The Championship is a tough league and the Owls still look a proven striker short of being able to match the division’s very best and earn that return to the Premier League.

But, over the past five or six weeks, it has become increasingly apparent that a momentum is building at Hillsborough that could, in time, take some stopping.

A seven-game unbeaten run has yielded 15 points, enough to nudge Carlos Carvalhal’s men to within a point of the play-off spots – albeit having now played a game more than everyone else in the top half of the table.

During that time, Premier League side Newcastle United have also been knocked out of the Capital One Cup by the South Yorkshire outfit to set up a mouth-watering clash with Arsenal on Tuesday night.

No wonder the 2,587 visiting fans were in such high spirits throughout a derby clash that took some time to get going before the Owls clinched the points with goals from Lucas Joao and Fernando Forestieri in the space of four minutes at the start of the second half.

Once those two goals had gone in, the game was as good as over to leave Neil Redfearn still searching for his first win as Rotherham manager.

Not that long-standing supporters of the Millers in a sell-out 11,658 crowd would perhaps have been unduly surprised, their side having a truly wretched record on home soil in front of the live TV cameras.

Wednesday’s victory last night was the 15th time United have been broadcast live in league combat at either the New York Stadium, Millmoor or the Don Valley Stadium and they have won just three.

It is a poor run that stretches back to 1999 and one that rarely looked like improving against the Owls.

In the first half, perhaps those who had tuned in at home had as much cause as Millers fans to regret Sky opting to return to Rotherham for the second time in three weeks.

Unlike that entertaining clash with Burnley that saw the Lancashire side claim a late winner, there was precious little quality on display in those opening 45 minutes.

Far too many unforced errors from both teams was the major obstacle to a pattern developing as the majority of promising situations broke down long before either goalkeeper was tested.

Keiren Westwood did have one save of note to make when defending the goal in front of the noisy away fans, Jonson Clarke-Harris thundering a 30-yard shot goalwards that the Owls man collected at the second attempt.

That apart, though, the first half was a tale of spurned opportunities and stoic defending – most notably from Farrend Rawson for the Millers and Glenn Loovens at the other end.

Twice, Rawson, a loanee from Derby County, came to the Millers’ rescue with sublimely timed tackles. Kieran Lee and Joao were the Owls players left rueing Rawson’s intelligent reading of the game as their path to goal was closed off unceremoniously.

On the rare occasions when Rawson was not on hand to avert the danger, United were able to rely on Wednesday fluffing their lines in front of goal.

Barry Bannan was the most culpable in this respect, the Scotland international heading narrowly over after initially being played through by a visionary Forestieri chip.

Lee also made a hash of another good opportunity after a swift break had ended with Joao teeing up his team-mate on the edge of the penalty area.

It was a similarly profligate tale in stoppage time at the end of the first half when a slip by Lee Camp presented Forestieri with not one but two chances to square the ball for a team-mate only to fire tamely into the relieved goalkeeper’s hands.

This late flurry of spurned opportunities meant the Owls left the field at the break feeling the most frustrated of the two sides.

Any sense of regret that lingered through the interval soon dissipated, however, courtesy of the visitors taking the lead within 33 seconds of the restart.

Neat play from Lee took Owls deep into home territory, where Forestieri wriggled free and fired a shot that Camp could only palm towards Joao and he duly fired the rebound into an empty net.

Four minutes later, Wednesday doubled their advantage as Forestieri swooped to fire in from close range after Camp had blocked a Jack Hunt header.

With their supporters in full voice and ‘Carlos had a dream’ being given umpteen airings, the visitors took charge.

Joao fired over just before the hour following good work from Bannan out wide. Bannan also shot high and wide after being set up by Forestieri before wasting another opportunity when picked out beautifully by Ross Wallace.

Rotherham, to their credit, kept going, as Chris Maguire curled a free-kick into the hands of Westwood before substitute Jordan Bowery curled a late effort just wide.

Tom Thorpe did find the net in the final minute of stoppage time but Carvalhal’s men would not be denied a deserved derby triumph.

Rotherham United: Camp; Buxton, Rawson, Collins, Toffolo; G Ward, Thorpe, Green (Bowery 62), Andreu (Maguire 49); Derbyshire, Clarke-Harris. Unused substitutes: Collin, Broadfoot, White, Richardson, Smallwood.

Sheffield Wednesday: Westwood; Hunt, Loovens, Lees, Pudil; Wallace, Lee, Hutchinson (Semedo 90), Bannan; Forestieri (Bus 90), Joao (Nuhiu 74). Unused substitutes: Wildsmith, McGugan, Helan, Sasso.

Referee: M Jones (Cheshire).