Gary Hooper spearheaded Sheffield Wednesday’s revival with two goals in three minutes to enable the Owls to boost their promotion aspirations with an impressive 2-1 Sky Bet Championship win over Birmingham at St. Andrew’s.
Birmingham, who suffered their first defeat in seven games, had led with a Clayton Donaldson goal after 39 minutes.
Wednesday’s revival was impressive as Birmingham appeared comfortable in the lead, to buckle faced by Hooper’s confident goalscoring ability as he took his tally to seven in the last seven games.
For a long period it appeared that Wednesday would be heading for defeat only for Hooper to transform the game in an electric three-minute spell when they had Birmingham on the ropes.
In pouring rain, Wednesday suffered a double blow in only the fifth minute when goalkeeper Keiren Westwood and Sam Hutchinson were injured in separate incidents. Unfortunately the Republic of Ireland goalkeeper had to be stretchered off.
It was a setback for the Owls who had opened brightly with Barry Bannan and newcomer Aiden McGeady showing up well in the early pressure applied on Birmingham’s defence.
Birmingham responded with a snappy move instigated by Jon Toral. His astute pass found Clayton Donaldson but the danger was averted by an alert Westwood a couple of minutes before his unfortunate accident.
The 10 minute delay, however, did enable Hutchinson to recover from his leg injury but it was only temporary as he was replaced by Lewis McGugan five minutes later.
Wednesday did not allow these problems to deter them in their bid to gain control as illustrated when Hooper had a clear-cut opportunity but his shot lacked real power and posed few problems for goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak.
There was a lot of counter attacking with McGeady in particular a potential danger. He made one fine run only to be thwarted by a solid tackle by Paul Caddis.
But the best chance fell to Donaldson. Put clear by Toral he only had substitute goalkeeper Lewis Price to beat but he bravely closed down the striker to make a vital save.
Wednesday could certainly rue their bad luck. Six minutes before the end of an extended first half Michael Morrison’s shot was blocked on the by-line and it cannoned back to run loose into the path of Donaldson to score an easy goal.
In windy conditions, Birmingham might easily have increased their lead when Jacques Maghoma hesitated and his shot was blocked.
The game continued to provide plenty of action. Wednesday stepped up the tempo and Fernando Forestieri had a shot well saved by Kuszczak and from the clearance Maghoma set up Donaldson who saw Price save at point blank range.
Wednesday could not be faulted in their efforts to equalise as demonstrated when Ross Wallace produced another good shot which was equally well saved by Kuszczak
They were rewarded in the 77th minute when Hooper carefully aimed a shot past Kuszczak.
The equaliser sparked even more determined attacks from the Owls and three minutes later a fine pass from Bannan found Forestieri who squared the ball back into the middle for the unmarked Hooper to notch his second goal to enable the Owls to complete the double over Birmingham.
Owls coach Lee Bullen said: “It was a fantastic game of football under difficult conditions. Early injuries to Kieren Westwood and Sam Hutchinson hindered us until we got going again.
“Birmingham got a foothold in the game and caused us problems but we kept plugging away.
“We have good, good players and somewhere along the line they eventually find a way back into the game.
“Hooper’s first goal was fantastic. Some of the one-touch play on a difficult pitch was sublime. To go and get the second goal a few minutes later made us ecstatic.
“We were hindered losing two players so early in the game but we have a very good squad.”
On Hooper, he added: “His goalscoring track record is second to none whether down here or up in Scotland.
“He has proved that again against Birmingham. His finishing was excellent. He has been a great signing for us and he feels really happy at the club.
“We are now in the play-offs and we know on our day we are as good a match for any club.”