Sheffield Wednesday can finally start looking upwards after top-10 scalp

Steven Fletcher converts from the penalty spot for the equalising goal.    Pics: Steve EllisSteven Fletcher converts from the penalty spot for the equalising goal.    Pics: Steve Ellis
Steven Fletcher converts from the penalty spot for the equalising goal. Pics: Steve Ellis
Sheffield Wednesday finally ended their long wait for a top-10 scalp after a comeback victory over Brentford.

It had become a stick to hit the Owls with, but before facing the Bees, Wednesday’s eight league wins this term had come against teams occupying the bottom eight places in the Championship.

If Garry Monk’s side have aspirations to get promoted, that is a record which must improve.

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Trailing 1-0 at half-time, to Bryan Mbeumo’s header, it looked like being another frustrating afternoon against top-half opposition.

Two goal Steven Fletcher at the final whistle.Two goal Steven Fletcher at the final whistle.
Two goal Steven Fletcher at the final whistle.

But two goals in four minutes from top scorer Steven Fletcher secured the Owls victory.

The second-half display was everything the opening 45 minutes wasn’t. Attacking verve, energy and a willingness to commit men forward.

After last week’s 3-1 win at Charlton Athletic, Monk made just one enforced change. Fernando Forestieri sat out with a knee injury, meaning a recall for the on-loan Jacob Murphy. Defender Julian Borner was named as a substitute after the German served a one-game ban.

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It was Murphy who looked Wednesday’s best outlet in the opening quarter, but neither goalkeeper was called into action.

In fact, it was Sam Hutchinson who caught the eye. Several crunching tackles – a throwback to the days when a midfielder could employ a sliding tackle – and several sweeping cross-field passes a joy to watch.

Murphy’s 18th-minute corner saw Atdhe Nuhiu cause problems for Bees goalkeeper David Raya, but no clear shot at goal.

But it was Owls stopper Cameron Dawson – who had conceded just three goals in his five previous starts in the Championship this season – who was picking the ball out of his net on 29 minutes.

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Wednesday – with two direct wingers in Murphy and Kadeem Harris – were leaving their full-backs exposed, and several times the visitors exposed gaps down the flanks.

The warning signs were there, but the goal came from a set-piece. A simple corner picked out Mbeumo who had an easy job of heading the ball beyond a stranded Dawson.

In response, the Owls offered little. Nuhiu’s header in first-half stoppage time – from a Harris cross – sailed aimlessly over the crossbar.

Monk needed to act, and brought on Jordan Rhodes – the £8m record signing from Middlesbrough, yet to start a league game this season – at half-time for the ineffective Nuhiu.

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The 29-year-old – farmed out on loan to Norwich City last season – played a hand in Wednesday’s best chance of the game on 52 minutes.

His movement in the box created space for Fletcher, but the Scotland international’s volley fizzed the wrong side of Raya’s right-hand post.

Murphy was sent clear down the right, but his shot was deflected for a corner, before Fletcher raced away only to be denied by a superb one-handed save from Raya.

Wednesday had created more in the opening 10 minutes after the restart – and more importantly, shown attacking intent – than they had conjured up in the entire first half.

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Fletcher headed wide from Barry Bannan’s free-kick, and when Raya ley Harris’s cross squirm from his grasp, it fell agonisingly between two Owls forwards.

But Wednesday’s pressure finally brought a deserved equaliser, Fletcher netting from the penalty spot on 69 minutes after Rico Henry handled in the box.

And four minutes later it was 2-1. Harris curled in a low cross, Fletcher controlled the ball before firing home the winner.

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