Verdict – Sheffield Wednesday 2 Ipswich 1: Lucas Joao in at the double to lift Owls

Pointing the way: Two-goal Lucas Joao.
Pointing the way: Two-goal Lucas Joao.
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IT was a month where the talk was about embargoes, enmity and embarrassment.

History will also show that August, 2018 was a month where Sheffield Wednesday made their best start to a Championship season in four years under the chairmanship of Dejphon Chansiri.

Crisis, what crisis? Funny old game.

For Wednesdayites and their Thai owner, the shrill of the final whistle on Saturday will have made for sweet, sweet music.

The transfer embargo is no more, the withering social media criticism of Chansiri has quietened considerably and 14th-placed Wednesday are two points away from the top six. Memories of a desperate Sunday-worst performance at Brentford have also quickly dissipated.

Given the capricious form of Wednesday, as unpredictable as the good old British weather, the landscape will, no doubt, change again. But for now, there is thanks.

It was a dog-eared, scruffy afternoon on Saturday, as can often be the way at the end of a three-game Championship week and a bottleneck August.

But the Owls found a way, thanks in no small part to the razor-sharp instincts of Lucas Joao, who picked the perfect time to score his first goals of the campaign on his first start. All this coming in a week when he signed a contract extension securing his Hillsborough future until 2021.

The penalty-area nous of Joao has been fleeting during his time at the club, but his pair of sharp headers suggest he might just be learning on that count at last.

Wednesday had their fortune, certainly with the harsh 75th-minute dismissal of Toto Nsiala after a strong, but clean tackle on Fernando Forestieri when the defender’s only concern was clearing the ball and not the man.

Red card for Ipswich's Aristote Nsiala. (Picture: Steve Ellis)

Red card for Ipswich's Aristote Nsiala. (Picture: Steve Ellis)

With the giant centre-half – who had earlier headed Ipswich level – not about, the hosts instantly filled their boots with Joao heading home a rebound and back-to-back wins it was.

Joao said: “This is football and in the Championship, you have a lot of games in a short space of time and it can change everything.

“I am happy to score two goals to help the team. But the most important thing was the collective work. The confidence is better when you are winning games.”

Joao’s brace aside, the performances of the coltish defensive duo of Jordan Thorniley and Matt Penney also left the home support with a warm glow, with the importance of their principal conductor in Barry Bannan again reinforced – not that it was needed.

I am happy to score two goals to help the team. But the most important thing was the collective work. The confidence is better when you are winning games.

Lucas Joao

Posters advertising an evening with Ron Atkinson – the irrepressible former Owls manager – are prevalent around the grand old stadium. You suspect that Bannan is just the sort of player whom ‘Big Ron’ would have enjoyed working with back in his pomp.

The strains of the ‘Better than Zidane’ song could still be heard as the Scot prepared to take a flag-kick by the corner of the North Stand on 16 minutes. It was a deadly, inswinging delivery which found the head of Joao, who pulled away from the dozing Trevoh Chalobah to nod home.

Another succulent Bannan set-piece should have yielded a second soon after for Thorniley – who had a good day otherwise.

Historically, Ipswich enjoy their trips to Hillsborough and it was always unlikely to be a straightforward occasion against a side who had not been beaten on their previous nine visits.

That was underlined when Nsiala headed over the stranded Cameron Dawson for a 40th-minute leveller after a deflected left-wing cross from Gwion Edwards was nodded on by Adetayo Edun and then Luke Chambers.

The Kop bayed for offside, with replays showing an Ipswich player was. But it was Ellis Harrison and not Nsiala, with the former not making an attempt for the ball.

Lucas Joao celebrates his second goal (Picture: Steve Ellis)

Lucas Joao celebrates his second goal (Picture: Steve Ellis)

An alert clearing header on the line from Liam Palmer thwarted Nsiala and Dawson parried Harrison’s effort as the hosts creaked before regrouping on the restart.

A goalline clearance from Jonas Knudsen to deny Bannan following Penney’s cutback was the major second-half development for Wednesday before Jos Luhukay acceded to the increasing demands of fans to throw Forestieri into the fray and provide some much-needed devilment, with Atdhe Nuhiu turning in a listless showing, in particular.

Nsiala’s challenge on Forestieri promptly changed the dynamic of the game, with Joao soon steering home a rebound after his initial header from Bannan’s deep corner struck the post.

It was Ipswich’s seventh set-piece concession this season – the sort of goal that they did not concede too often under former manager Mick McCarthy.

Owls midfielder Adam Reach added: “Our football was not the best that the fans will ever see.

“But we have got six points from the last two games and I am sure the fans would rather go home with six points from two games rather than play some nice football, but get punished.

“We did what we had to do to get the points this week. As confidence rises, the good football will come out.”