FOR both Sheffield Wednesday and Sunderland, avoiding the perils of an ‘After the Lord Mayor’s Show’ type performance will be self-evident this afternoon.
A precious shaft of light in demoralising seasons arrived in spectacular fashion on Good Friday when both recorded memorable 4-1 victories against play-off candidates, Preston and Derby, respectively.
For Wednesday, their magnificent four-goal second-half showing against North End rewound the clock to some marquee moments from their previous two campaigns, which ended in play-off participation.
In a pretty joyless season, the Owls are showing signs of reserving some of their best until last, with it perhaps no surprise given that their options are now starting to look more plentiful, given the return to the fray of the likes of Fernando Forestieri and Barry Bannan.
Forestieri showed just what Wednesday have been missing in his seven-month absence with a serious knee injury with a delightful late free-kick to provide gloss to Friday’s fine win.
Those travelling supporters who head to Wearside this afternoon will, no doubt, be hankering for an encore after his sweet late cameo against Preston, a side who the Argentine was dismissed against in the same fixture last term.
These are top quality players we have missed, there is no doubt about that.Sheffield Wednesday captain, Tom Lees
Owls captain Tom Lees said: “Nando has done really well, to be fair to him. He has had a very serious injury and even to get fit in that amount of time – let alone come back at a level that he looks like he left us at – fair play to him.
“He was hard done last time (last season), so he had a little bit of a point to prove and enjoyed it.
“These are top quality players we have missed, there is no doubt about that.
“Any team in the division would miss them. Sometimes, you need that little bit of magic to win a game.
On the importance of Wednesday backing up two positive results against Preston and Yorkshire rivals Leeds United and providing further payback for Owls supporters over the remainder of the season, Lees added: “We cannot change anything that has happened this season, it is too late and we have given ourselves too much to do.
“But we have just got a bit of pride now to finish off the season properly and show what we can do and be here next year.”
Last six games: Sunderland DDLLLW; Sheffield Wednesday LLLDWW.
Referee: S Hooper (Wiltshire).
Last time: Sunderland 1 Sheffield Wednesday 0, September 30, 2006; Championship.