Two goals from Steve Fletcher continued Sheffield Wednesday’s impressive form in 2019 with this win over Brentford at Hillsborough.
Victory on home soil last night stretched the Owls’ unbeaten league run to seven games – placing them just six points adrift of the Championship play-off spots – and no player has benefited from the change in manager more than Scotland international striker Fletcher.
After netting just three goals all season under Dutchman Jos Luhukay, Fletcher has now bagged five goals in 2019, and the Owls are a team transformed under manager Steve Bruce.
Employing wide men Adam Reach and Rolando Aarons – who along with left-back Achraf Lazaar have impressed since arriving on loan from Newcastle United last month – the Owls are finally delivering the service on which 31-year-old Fletcher can thrive.
This was evident in the 48th minute, Reach picking out Fletcher at the back post to head home his second goal of the evening.
His first came four minutes before half-time, racing on to Barry Bannan’s defence-splitting pass before smashing the ball beyond Bees goalkeeper Daniel Bentley.
The Owls – with Fernando Forestieri back after a one-game ban, in place of Lucas Joao – were resolute in defence, and their high pressing tactics never allowed Brentford’s passing game to get going.
With Bristol City losing at home to Birmingham City victory nudges Wednesday to half a dozen points off the play-off spots with 12 games remaining.
They went in front as Fletcher netted his seventh goal of the campaign on 41 minutes.
The Scotland international had just seen his overhead kick land safely in the grateful arms of Bentley.
But on the next attack Bannan picked out the run of Fletcher, who raced away before drilling the ball beyond the stranded Bentley.
Earlier the striker had poked the ball wide from Bannan’s curling free-kick, and Bentley was at full stretch to claw away a fierce drive.
It should have been 2-0 in first-half stoppage time, but Fletcher failed to find the target after a right-wing cross from Reach.
The only negative of the night was the loss of Lazaar, who limped off with a hamstring injury to be replaced by Dominic Iorfa.
Reach side-footed wide at the start of the second half before Fletcher netted the second goal.
Owls captain Tom Lees – who went close with a first-half header from a Lazaar corner - won the ball back in the centre of the field before Reach picked out Fletcher at the back post, and he headed the ball back across Bentley.
The visiting goalkeeper had to race out to deny Aarons, but with the game over, and one eye on next Monday’s Steel City derby, Bruce was able to take off Sam Hutchinson – on a booking since the 14th minute – and a tiring Forestieri. The visitors finally had a couple of late efforts, from substitute Ollie Watkins and Neal Maupay, but neither could beat Keiren Westwood.
Bruce said: “We’ve got some big games to play and we will not give up on this season, that’s for sure.
“We’ve done back-to-back home wins and that’s important for everyone.
“It was certainly the best performance since I’ve been at the club.
“Steven led the line and did fantastically well, his work rate was excellent and he’s playing really well, so long may that continue.”
Sheffield Wednesday: Westwood, Palmer, Lees, Hector, Lazaar (Iorfa 35), Hutchinson (Pelupessy 68), Bannan, Aarons, Reach, Forestieri (Boyd 82), Fletcher. Unused substitutes: Dawson, Pudil, Matias, Nuhiu.
Brentford: Bentley, Odubajo, Canos (Watkins 65), McEachran (Da Silva 65), Maupay, Benrahma, Sawyers, Dalsgaard, Jeanvier, Konsa, Barbet. Unused substitutes: Balcombe, Ogbene, Sorensen, Kirk.
Referee: S Duncan (Northumberland).