Sheffield Wednesday: Owls face big test of top-two aspirations

Sheffiled WEdnesday’s automatic promotion hopes should become a lot clearer come Sunday lunchtime next weekend.

The Owls – who completed a nine-point haul from three games in a week with victory at a windswept Burton Albion on Saturday – host second-placed Wigan Athletic tomorrow night before leaders Rotherham United arrive at Hillsborough on Sunday.

Currently three points outside the top six, and seven behind Wigan, if – and it is a big IF – Wednesday can stretch their winning streak to five games, then automatic promotion could be back on the agenda at Hillsborough.

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“This nine points feels like a big bonus for us,” said Owls midfielder Massimo Luongo, after goals from George Byers and Sylla Sow secured victory at Burton. “We need that momentum going into these two big games.

Owls midfielder Massimo Luongo. Picture: Steve Ellis

“These last three games I have just felt so comfortable out there.

“It was a tough game, the pitch wasn’t great. We controlled (the game), no-one had to do anything magical, we all just did our jobs. It was an experienced performance from us.”

In a scrappy game, hindered by a swirling wind, the Owls took the lead from a well-worked short corner on 32 minutes. Nathaniel Mendez-Laing and Barry Bannan combined, and when the former was thwarted by home goalkeeper Ben Garratt, Byers stabbed the ball home.

Garratt denied Jordan Storey from close-range from another Owls corner, while at the other end Bailey Peacock-Farrell stopped Harry Chapman with an outstretched leg in a one-on-one.

Bannan’s shot was deflected in by Sow on 81 minutes, while Burton substitute Christian Saydee hit the post late on. The clean sheet was Wednesday’s third in a week, with Storey – on loan from Preston North End – yet to concede a goal since arriving at S6.

Owls boss Darren Moore – back on the touchline after self-isolating due to Covid-19 – said: “The base is at the back and that allows the players at the front to score the goals to win the games.

“We have got this side of our game in a good place. It’s always pleasing to win and to win with a clean sheet and even more so away from home.”

Burton Albion: Garratt, Hughes,Brayford, Oshilaja (Borthwick-Jackson 63), Hamer, Maddox (Saydee 79), Shaughnessy, Kokolo, Chapman, Powell, Moult (Ahadme 64). 
Unused substitutes: Kovar, Gilligan, Mancienne, Lakin.

Sheffield Wednesday: Peacock-Farrell, Storey, Hutchinson, Palmer, Hunt, Byers (Kamberi 73), Bannan (Brennan 90), Luongo, Johnson, Paterson, Mendez-Laing (Sow 74). Unused substitutes: Brown, Berahino, Waldock, Wildsmith.

Referee: A Young (Cambridgeshire).