Adam Reach believes Steve Bruce has brought the “feelgood factor” back to Sheffield Wednesday.
Two goals from midfielder Reach and a spectacular overhead kick from Steven Fletcher secured an impressive win over Swansea City and maintained the Owls’ unbeaten start under Bruce.
Nine points from a possible 15 have helped bring smiles back to Hillsborough, plus an optimism not felt since Carlos Carvalhal left the Owls in 2017.
Reach is adamant new manager Bruce must take credit for the Owls’ revival of fortunes.
“He has had success at different clubs because he is a fantastic man-manager,” said Reach. “He knows how to get the best out of every player.
“He has instilled a new life, a new energy, and got everyone believing how good we are again. I think you could see that with the football we are playing at times, and he has brought that feelgood factor back.
We are in a no-lose situation. We are nowhere near the play-offs, nobody is expecting anything. Teams who are in there, and have been there all season, they will get a little bit nervous, looking over their shoulders.Adam Reach
“Hillsborough has been crying out for a game like that, where we scored three goals and the fans can get out of their seat and applaud good football.”
Wednesday took the lead on 11 minutes, Barry Bannan winning the ball, before winger Rolando Aarons – making his first start along with fellow Newcastle United loanee Achraf Lazaar – played in Reach, to drill the ball beyond Kristoffer Nordfeldt.
The same pair combined to make it 2-0. Aarons crossed from the left to the back post and Reach smashed the ball low into Nordfeldt’s left-hand corner.
That made it nine goals for Reach this season but his first in 2019 – an 11-game dry spell – after his last goal on Boxing Day.
“I am delighted with my goals,” he said. “I didn’t have much time to think about either of them, it was just get your head down and shoot. Scoring on Boxing Day, it seems like ages ago. I have missed a few chances, at Ipswich and home against Reading.
“I felt like I was in one of those slumps where I couldn’t find a goal. I just had to keep working hard. I have been in the game long enough now to know that if it’s not going so well it will always eventually turn around if you keep working hard. It happened for me today.”
The Owls had not scored more than two goals in a match all season – and netted just five in their previous nine games – but they bagged a third just before the break. A corner was not cleared and when Tom Lees hooked the ball back in, Fletcher produced an overhead kick to make it 3-0.
Nordfeldt denied Aarons a debut goal, thwarting the winger at his near post, before the visitors grabbed a consolation via substitute Wayne Routledge’s deflected shot.
Goalkeeper Keiren Westwood twice came to Wednesday’s rescue late in the game – the Owls “ran out of juice” admitted Bruce – to deny Courtney Baker-Richardson and Daniel James.
Victory leaves Wednesday nine points off the top six with 13 games remaining and nobody at S6 is ruling out an unlikely late challenge for the play-offs.
“We are all playing it down, but you can’t avoid the league table, we see it every day,” said Reach.
“We are in a no-lose situation. We are nowhere near the play-offs, nobody is expecting anything. Teams who are in there, and have been there all season, they will get a little bit nervous, looking over their shoulders.
“If we can quietly go about our games, pick up points, then going into March and April, we will see where we are at.”
Wednesday have back-to-back games at Hillsborough in the next seven days. Brentford are the visitors tomorrow before the Sheffield derby next Monday.
“United are right up there but with the squad we have and the way we are playing at the minute, we should not fear anyone,” said Reach. “Just because it’s United, and the derby, it adds a little bit extra spice. I think all Wednesday fans will be hoping we can dent United’s promotion push. That would be nice.
“But for us, although the city itself is looking beyond the Brentford game to the derby, we are all concentrating on Brentford because we know the qualities they have.
“It will be a tough game on Tuesday night, and if we can come through that, then we can enjoy the build-up to the derby.”
Sheffield Wednesday: Westwood, Palmer, lees, Hector, Lazaar, Reach, Hutchinson, Bannan, Aarons (Matias 64), Joao (Iorfa 58), Fletcher (Pelupessy 88). Unused substitutes: Dawson, Jones, Nuhiu, Pudil.
Swansea City: Nordfeldt,Roberts (McKay 87), van der Hoorn, Carter-Vickers, John (Routledge 45), Naughton (Baker-Richardson 78), Byers, Grimes, McBurnie, Celina, James. Unused substitutes: Harries, Asoro, Mulder, Fulton.
Referee: G Eltringham (County Durham).