Sheffield Wednesday 1 Blackburn 0 - Owls live to fight another day

THE CLASS OF Roland Nilsson and John Sheridan, the leadership of Nigel Pearson. The power and drive of David Hirst.

Tom Lees showed his acrobatic skills in Sheffield Wednesday's home game with Blackburn. Picture: PA.
Tom Lees showed his acrobatic skills in Sheffield Wednesday's home game with Blackburn. Picture: PA.

And several more besides - the names roll off the tongue. John Harkes, Danny Wilson, Nigel Worthington, Trevor Francis, Phil King.

It is thirty years ago tomorrow that Sheffield Wednesday, then a second-tier side, toppled Manchester United in the League Cup final at Wembley - thanks to that celebrated strike from a Mancunian in Sheridan, a United fan from Stretford.

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Promotion followed and it was the precipitant to European qualification - the Owls finished third in the top-flight in 1991-92 ahead of four Wembley appearances in the next campaign.

Those moments in the sun were started off on that famous April afternoon in the capital three decades ago when Ron Atkinson, never one to miss a trick, introduced Scouse comedian Stan Boardman to the players ahead of the coach journey to the final to ease any pre-match tension by way of a few jokes.

In marked contrast, the 2020-21 season at Hillsborough has been no laughing matter.

Given events this term, Owls followers would be forgiven for wallowing in heap of nostalgia on this of all days, given the descent of one of English football’s grand old clubs in a sorry slide.

But on a night when their relegation to the third tier, for the third time since vacating the Premier League in 2000, would have confirmed if they had lost to Blackburn and Derby County had beaten Preston, Wednesday lived to fight another day and it is not over yet. Sometimes, it is the hope that kills you.

A 37th-minute goal from Josh Windass keeps Wednesday’s fight going with events at Deepdale, where a Derby side - who welcome the Owls on the final day - succumbed 3-0 - keeps them in the game. The Rams have a four-point advantage on them. Big at this stage of the season, but not unbridgeable.

Attention now switches to the other side of the Tinsley Viaduct on Wednesday night where the Owls relegation rivals Rotherham United - also revitalised by Derby’s defeat - welcome Neil Warnock’s Middlesbrough.

The pre-match class was shown by Blackburn’s Harvey Elliott, with the Liverpool loanee placing a wreath at the Leppings Lane End - to pay his respects after the recent 32nd anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster.

On the pitch, the midfielder showed moments of grace and guile, playing a part in helping to fashion out a good chance for Sam Gallagher, who scuffed a shot wide.

Keiren Westwood had earlier made a decent parry to turn away Tom Trybull’s drive and held a smart header from Joe Rothwell - from a move with Elliott at the heart of it.

But it was a half in which Wednesday got better and asserted themselves as it went on, encouraged by the visitors’ unconvincing traits at the back.

Windass had posted a semblance of threat and got his rewards with the ball was cut back to him by Kadeem Harris and his low shot deflected off Darragh Lenihan and wrong-footed Kaminski for his fifth goal in 12 matches.

Tom Lees spurned a couple of half-chances as Blackburn again switched off and just before the break, Kaminski beat away a fierce drive from Adam Reach, with Lenihan doing well to block Windass’s follow-up.

Wednesday sustained the tempo on the restart, with a rare source in Liam Palmer dragging a low shot off target in a game that they were increasingly starting to control against opponents whose own safety was pretty much secured last Friday.

Against his former club, Jordan Rhodes was forced to be patient for his moment, but Blackburn’s sloppiness at the back was entitled to keep him interested.

At the other end, Rovers created little of note with Mowbray, having clearly seen enough, making a quadruple substitution midway through a half in which his side went through the motions.

Palmer soon popped up in the danger zone again, seeing his drive turned away by Kaminski at his near post before one of Mowbray’s replacements almost made a telling impact.

On a rare occasion when Wednesday were unhinged defensively, Adam Armstrong squared to John Buckley, but fortunately his point-blank shot was straight at Keiren Westwood and not either side of him.

The chances for Owls defenders continued with Julian Borner being the next to test Kaminski.

The main mission of the night was the home backline to see out the game with their goal intact at the other end.

They did just that.

Sheffield Wednesday: Westwood; Lees, Hutchinson, Borner (Urhoghide 90); Palmer, Pelupessy, Bannan, Reach; Harris (Green 75), Windass, Rhodes Paterson 75). Substitutes unused: Wildsmith, Penney, Dele-Bashiru, Shaw, Hunt, Brennan.

Blackburn Rovers: Kaminski; Bennett, Lenihan, Harwood-Bellis, Douglas; Trybull (Brereton 68); Elliott (Downing 67), Evans (Buckley 68), Rothwell, Gallagher (Travis 68); Armstrong. Substitutes unused: Pears, Johnson, Bell, Davenport, Dolan.

Referee: P Tierney (Lancashire).