Sheffield Wednesday 1 Crewe 0: Lee Gregory fuels Owls’ push for automatic promotion

At times it seemed to be contest as to who could frustrate Hillsborough the most but when the torture was over, Sheffield Wednesday had done something no other League One promotion contender managed over Easter, and claimed maximum points.

It should have been more comfortable than limping over the line at home to already-relegated Crewe Alexandra courtesy of a 55th-minute penalty by Lee Gregory. Much more comfortable.

But this is April: comfortable wins are a rare luxury when you are trying to achieve something at the end of a long season.

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At times there were moans and groans, at Crewe’s time-wasting but mainly at Wednesday’s opportunity-wasting, but by and large the home crowd stayed with their team until the finish.

Lee Gregory nets with a second-half penalty to earn Sheffield Wednesday a 1-0 win over Crewe at Hillsborough. Picture: Steve Ellis

With three games to play – the other teams in the play-off seats have only two – Darren Moore’s team are fourth in League One. It may not be juggernaut stuff but they are inching closer to their destination.

The cheers as Bailey Peacock-Farrell caught a corner which was the final act in the sixth added minute was immense.

Midway through the first half, the small handful of Crewe loyalists in the away end were greeting each pass along their backline with a sarcastic olé having watched their team furiously try to waste time inbetween every break in the flow of what should have been a cricket score of an attacking performance.

By the end of the first half Barry Bannan, playing deeper than he has tended to recently, was clapping his hands together and spinning on his studs in frustration after playing a ball down the channel when Jack Hunt stayed wide. So formidable in the first quarter, the Owls had ground to a halt and the score was still 0-0.

Sheffield Wednesday's Lee Gregory (left) celebrates scoring a penalty with team mate Saido Berahino (right). Picture: PA

That nearly changed a minute later when Bailey Peacock-Farrell saved from Callum Ainley.

When Gregory finally broke the deadlock, you thought the floodgates might burst but a managerless Crewe side with nothing but pride to play for stood firm to keep the damage to 1-0.

Wednesday had been so good at the start in everything but their woeful finishing.

Callum Paterson set the tone in the fourth minute when he dummied a pull-back from Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, in at left wing-back as Marvin Johnson was preferred to centre-backs Chey Dunkley and Ciaran Brennan at centre-back. The problem was, there was no one behind him.

Saido Berahino was looking bright, regularly dropping off to link the play, but two minutes later he produced a horrible miss, ballooning over the bar after Hunt drew the keeper and crossed to him.

A minute later he picked up the rebound from Mendez-Laing’s saved shot and saw his effort blocked. When the ball bounced back to him, he failed to get another strike away.

George Byers forced a low save and Gregory could not get a clean touch as Paterson’s header across from Bannan’s pass came to him at an awkward height yards out at the far post.

Bannan’s shot hit Luke Offord, though it was probably going wide, then dinked a ball which just ran away from Gregory.

Whether the hosts lost confidence, the already-relegated visitors found it or both, Jordan Storey was forced to make a good tackle to stop Chris Long going through on goal.

The Owls continued to boss the ball, but did most of their passing further away from Dave Richards.

Although there was a squall to finish the half, a Paterson shot blocked and Gregory’s on the turn smothered, Ainley’s at the other end was more dangerous.

Wednesday came out of the blocks quickly again for the second half, but once more could not make the most of it, Berahino’s shot blocked, Johnson blazing the rebound over.

They nearly made a mess of Bannan’s ball down the line, Johnson and Mendez-Laing both going for it despite the former appearing to be in an offside position. We will never know because he left it for Mendez-Laing to dribble into the area and be brought down by Scott Kashket.

Gregory calmly sent the goalkeeper the wrong way.

So we sat back and waited for 35 minutes of making up for lost time but it never came.

Richards made a good save to tip Storey’s header at a corner around the post and Hunt dragged a shot wide. Paterson swiped at fresh air rather than Johnson’s excellent ball, substitute Florian Kamberi burst through in stoppage time but shot at the goalkeeper.

But hey, a win’s a win.

Sheffield Wednesday: Peacock-Farrell; Palmer, Storey, Johnson; Hunt, Byers, Bannan, Mendez-Laing (Dunkley 82); Paterson; Berahino (Kamberi 82), Gregory (Luongo 62). Unused substitutes: Wildsmith, Gibson, Shodipo, Dele-Bashiru.

Crewe Alexandra: Richards; Lundstram (Sambou 73), Sass-Davies, Offord, Williams; Harper (Murphy 73), Lowery, Kashket (Uwakwe 58), Long; Ainley; Mandron. Unused substitutes: Jasskelainen, Finney, Griffiths, O’Riordan.

Referee: C Breakspear (Surrey).