Sheffield Wednesday 4 Portsmouth 1: Owls qualify for play-offs with ease but are handed Bannan scare

ONE HILL successfully climbed, hopefully three more to go.

After an early scare, Sheffield Wednesday secured play-off participation at a canter and now a new season effectively begins. They will face Sunderland in the semi-finals with the winners progressing to Wembley.

Given their resources, form and experience, it will take a good side to beat the Owls

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Big players came to the party with the outstanding Lee Gregory and Saido Berahino both scoring. Perhaps the only downer was the sight late on of talismanic captain Barry Bannan coming off with what appeared to be an injury issue.

Hillsborough, home of Sheffield Wednesday.

A fourth-minute goal from former striker George Hirst hinted at a nasty old afternoon, but it ended in a carnival as Wednesday awesome home form continued.

Hillsborough expected and unfortunately, Wednesday fell off script early on. It took a concession to get them wired in and their response was admirable, impressive and smacked of character.

They faced a Portsmouth side who posted threat on the break and were decent in midfield where they found gaps. But in defence, they were stodgy and sloppy and Wednesday filled their boots and the half-time score was handsome.

It was not so grand early on. Hirst, with an air of inevitability, was the villain of the piece after Pompey, on their first visit to S6 in over two decades, feasted on some poor defending on the hosts right, with Ronan Curtis doing well to keep the ball in close to the byline and cut the ball back for the lurking and unmarked Hirst, who tucked the ball away from close range in front of the Kop.

Towards the end of the half, a chorus of 'Hirsty, what's the score' from Wednesdayites was a barometer of how things changed rapidly.

Wednesday's experienced players got the message after Hirst's shocker and stepped it up and delivered, aided by Portsmouth's ineptitude in defending set-plays.

Wednesday's settler and leveller was a beauty.

Berahino and Gregory combined before the move was taken on by Marvin Johnson, whose inch-perfect low cross on the left was steered home clinically and beautifully by Gregory's 16th goal of the campaign - and fourth in a week.

Increasingly confident and showing leadership, the Owls' top-scorer then saw a delightful half-volley turned away splendidly by Gavin Bazunu, before lovely work by Berahino and Palmer set up Bannan, whose rising shot was tipped over by the Pompey keeper.

Wednesday kept at it and forged the lead when a Bannan corner wasn't cleared and Byers set up Berahino for a composed finish from close range.

Pompey's defence was part again before the break with Byers again the creator. Given too much space after the visitors failed to clear following another corner, the midfield found Storey, who steered the ball in a few yards out in a half which started with nerves but ended with a flourish.

The Owls' buffer was a good one, but with the realisation that a Pompey goal had the potential to make things rather more uncomfortable again.

The early sparrings of the second half were unremarkable, which should not have overly bothered the hosts, who were in the box seat and did not need to force the issue.

Hirst briefly threatened after wriggling clear, with Palmer booting the ball clear in the nick of time.

At the other end, Wednesday cashed in on more fitful Pompey defending with Johnson finding Byers, who failed to get the goal that his performance deserved, with Bazunu blocking his goalbound low shot.

For the Owls it was primarily about seeing the job through and not doing anything silly.

A cameo of action at both ends saw substitute Aiden O'Brien, moments after coming in, see his flicked near-post shot clip the outside of the post from Curtis's cross, while at the other end, the irrepressible Gregory saw his lob land on the top of the net after being played in with Bazanu stranded out of his goal.

His counterpart Bailey Peacock-Farrell was then called into meaningful work, somehow clawing out a Sean Raggett in outstanding fashion and maybe preventing a dramatic finale in the process.

The Owls keeper then earned his corn again to block Hirst's drive as Wednesday started to get a tad sloppy at the back.

A development at the opposing end was more favourable as Byers glanced the ball home after more defensive ineptitude from Pompey.

Peacock-Farrell; Palmer, Storey, Hutchinson; Hunt, Byers, Bannan (Paterson 82), Luongo, Johnson; Berahino (Windass 77), Gregory (Dele-Bashiru 88). Substitutes unused: Wildsmith, Gibson, Dunkley, Mendez-Laing.

Portsmouth: Bazunu; Carter, Raggett, Robertson, Ogilvie; Harness, Morrell, Thompson (Mingi 88), Jacobs (O’Brien 63); Curtis, Hirst. Substitutes unused: Webber, Williams, Walker, Romeo, Vincent.

Attendance: 33,394.