Sheffield Wednesday 1 Ipswich Town 0: Changes bring instant rewards for Owls
That’s what Owls boss Darren Moore did, and while it might not have been that straight-forward, the Owls were better defensively – loan arrivals Harlee Dean and Jordan Storey slotting in alongside Sam Hutchinson in a back three – and deserved more than Marvin Johnson’s sixth-minute goal against an Ipswich Town side who failed to muster a shot on target.
Victory leaves the Owls six points off the play-offs.
Wednesday went into the game knowing the next 10 games would be key to their promotion aspirations.
Seven out of the 10 matches are at Hillsborough, meaning by the time they welcome Burton Albion on March the top-six picture should be a lot clearer.
Owls boss Moore was forced into several changes, from the side which lost against Oxford United last week.
In came new loan defenders Dean and Storey, while there were recalls for striker duo Josh Windass and Florian Kamberi – the latter’s first game since December 7 due to injury.
It was a scrappy start but the Owls went ahead with their first meaningful attack.
Right wing-back Nathaniel Mendez-Laing crossed for his opposite number Marvin Johnson to stretch, and volley home at the back post.
Mendez-Laing was less accurate with his next foray forward, slicing his shot well wide after a short corner routine.
Windass was next to try his luck from distance, but dragged his shot wide of Christian Walton’s right-hand post.
Ipswich were struggling to get forward, the closest threat saw Bersant Celina fire high into the Kop from long-range.
Wednesday should have made it 2-0 when Kamberi played in Mendez-Laing, who beat his man, composed himself, but still failed to find the target from in front of goal.
Walton had to be alert to palm away Kamberi’s near-post effort, and from the resulting corner Sam Hutchinson’s close-range strike went straight into the hands of the visiting goalkeeper.
Wednesday were pushing for a second goal, Bannan heading over – just getting under the ball – from close range at the start of the second half, before Johnson dragged another chance wide from Kamberi’s cross.
If the Owls had been guilty of poor finishing, Bannan’s fierce drive was heading for the top corner before Walton produced a stunning save to keep the ball out.
And while the hosts failed to grab a second goal, their game management allowed them to see out the match with little to worry about.