Sheffield Wednesday 3 Birmingham City 0: Jordan Rhodes shows his liking for Hillsborough to Owls’ delight

Jordan Rhodes, who had a fine scoring record at Hillsborough with away teams, scores in a Sheffield Wednesday shirt last night against Birmingham City (Picture: Steve Ellis).
Jordan Rhodes, who had a fine scoring record at Hillsborough with away teams, scores in a Sheffield Wednesday shirt last night against Birmingham City (Picture: Steve Ellis).
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SOME things are just written in the stars.

Making his eagerly-awaited home debut for Sheffield Wednesday, Jordan Rhodes was finally afforded his redemptive moment as he started to vanquish six months of deep-seated frustration and bewilderment suffered at the opposite end of Yorkshire as a Middlesbrough player.

Rhodes’s celebrations on nine minutes after scoring the sort of goal that was his stock-in-trade at Blackburn Rovers and Huddersfield Town spoke of a player who finally felt the weight of the world start to lift from his aching shoulders.

His brief look up to the heavens underlined his overwhelming relief better than anything else .

And his subsequent race to the touchline to embrace his father Andy – the Owls’ goalkeeping coach – represented a special moment to savour for the Rhodes family.

It was somewhat fitting that it was Hillsborough – a cherished venue where he had plundered seven goals in his previous four outings – was where Rhodes’s first goal for the Owls would arrive.

Ironically, Birmingham were the opposition when Rhodes had last found the net, in Boro’s 2-2 draw at St Andrews’ in late April, and it was Blues who would enable him to get back in business

Rhodes’s strike partner Sam Winnall, in his first home start, also had pleasurable memories of facing the Blues and he took his tally against the Midlanders to four this season with a late second to seal victory for the Owls and also score his first league goal for the club in the process.

The persistence of Winnall, who was insatiable in his desire to find the net, was rewarded 10 minutes from time when his stooping header flew past Tomasz Kuszczak following a fantastic cross from Jack Hunt.

While both Rhodes and Winnall showed that they have goals in their locker if the supply line is there, luck at key moments also played a major part in the hosts’ success as they moved five points clear of seventh-placed Norwich to put the pressure on the chasing pack for the second week running.

It was chiefly manifested moments before Winnall’s strike with a dipping effort from Craig Gardner rebounding off the crossbar, the third occasion on the night that the Blues had hit the woodwork.

It was emblematic of an evening that was not without discomfort for the hosts, even accounting for a scoreline which saw gloss provided late on by a flattering third goal, netted coolly by substitute Adam Reach.

But in the final analysis, Wednesday’s attacking ambition and the number of chances that they created was at least far more striking than for much of this season, with Rhodes and strike partner Winnall – whose efforts deserved a goal – providing plenty of room for optimism, with the pair dovetailing well together.

The margin of victory was an added bonus and provided a real shot in the arm at just the right juncture, just as the victory at Birmingham was in the second half of last season.

A vibrant start was rewarded with Rhodes’s cathartic episode, and Winnall also had his moments in a zestful opening, with the pair displaying menace alongside Fernando Forestieri, operating on the left in place of Reach.

To their credit, Blues rallied well from their early concession and showed that they were clearly not there to make up the numbers and also threatened, in particular down the Owls’ right.

The hosts heaved a dual sigh of relief when Sam Hutchinson diverted Gardner’s free-kick against his own post, and soon after Emilio Nsue’s well-struck half-volley shuddered the woodwork.

But it was Wednesday who largely took the honours with Rhodes rewinding the clock to happier times when he nodded in Ross Wallace’s quality centre.

Earlier, visiting goalkeeper Kuszczak unconvincingly spilled Barry Bannan’s pot-shot from distance and Wednesday had opportunities to add to their lead after Rhodes’s strike.

Winnall headed wide at full-stretch following Hunt’s cross and he also went close with a deflected strike.

Birmingham’s fitful defending in the first half gave the Owls confidence on the restart, although the hosts own susceptibility, particularly at set-pieces, provided the Midlands club with encouragement.

Gardner saw an early free-kick fly just wide after Winnall tested Kuszczak at the other end, and Rhodes also saw a header held.

In contrast to the first period, it was rather more prosaic from the Owls, but the late drama provided the sweetener.

After Gardner went desperately close to a leveller, Winnall made the game safe and there was time for Reach to race clear and add an effortless late third.

Sheffield Wednesday: Westwood; Hunt, Loovens, Sasso, Fox; Wallace (McManaman 85), Hutchinson, Bannan (Abdi 82), Forestieri (Reach 67); Winnall, Rhodes. Unused substitutes: Wildsmith, Palmer, Semedo, Nuhiu.

Birmingham City: Kuszczak; Nsue, Robinson, Grounds, Keita; Gleeson, Kieftenbeld (Frei 63), Davis (Stewart 82), Gardner, Sinclair (Adams 72); Jutkiewicz. Unused substitutes: Legzdins, Dacres-Copley, O’Keeffe, Bielik.

Referee: C Kavanagh (Lancashire).