A STUNNING strike from Ross Wallace banished Sheffield Wednesday’s recent away day blues to breathe renewed life into the club’s play-off hopes.
The Owls had taken just two points from their last six games on the road before heading to west London.
However, on an afternoon when Fulham goalkeeper Andy Lonergan was in outstanding form, Wallace bagged the winner with a quite wonderful strike just before the half-hour.
Lonergan was left grasping at air as a thunderbolt from 30 yards flew into the net from Wallace’s left foot to start 2016 in fine style for the Owls.
The game had been something of a slow burner before Wallace’s opening goal sparked proceedings into life in spectacular fashion.
That said, Wednesday’s goal had come under threat a couple of times just before the midfielder let fly with his left foot.
First, Alexander Kacaniklic had cut the ball back for Emerson Hyndman who then brought a fine reflex save from Joe Wildsmith.
Then, after more neat approach play, Hyndman let rip with a thunderous 25-yard strike that flew just an inch or so wide of the Owls’ goal.
The second of those chances proved a decent appetiser for Wallace’s third goal of the season, the former Burnley man using the overlapping Liam Palmer as a decoy before cutting inside and unleashing a ferocious 30-yard effort that flew past Andrew Lonergan and into the net off the underside of the bar.
Ross McCormack thought he had drawn the hosts level just three minutes later but his strike was ruled out for offside.
Wednesday really should have doubled their advantage ten minutes after the restart after an incisive pass from Barry Bannan released Gary Hooper.
With just Lonergan to beat, the Norwich City loanee looked odds on to score but, instead, he was denied by the goalkeeper.
The former Leeds United goalkeeper was again called into action on the hour by a ferocious drive from Atdhe Nuhiu.
Vincent Sasso, a late replacement after Sam Hutchinson had been injured during the warm-up, twice had to prevent Moussa Dembele having a shot on goal as the game moved into the final quarter.
Another stunning save from Lonergan, this time to deny Hooper, then kept the Owls out on 70 minutes but his efforts proved in vain as Fulham were unable to find an equaliser at the other end.
It meant a first win on the road since beating Rotherham United at the New York Stadium on October 23 and a move to within touching distance of the play-off places.
Carlos Carvalhal, the Sheffield Wednesday head coach, said: “I think we deserved the victory. The time we scored the goal was important because we were not playing well and Fulham had more of the ball.
“But football is like this and after the goal a lot of things changed in the game. Especially in the second half we had a lot of control of the game.
“In the second half we created three or four scoring chances to make another goal. It was not easy because of the way that Fulham play but the reality is that Joe Wildsmith did not have too many saves to make and we could have scored more.”
On the goal, he added: “I joked with Ross that he never scores goals like this earlier in the week. I said he did it for Celtic 25 years ago but why not for us?
“Of course, I was joking, it was not 25 years. I didn’t make him score but it was a nice coincidence.”