READING’S defenders had as much success in trying to tie down Fernando Forestieri as the Hillsborough media.
While the Sheffield Wednesday striker left the Royals bewildered with his scampering style and clinical finishing – netting twice, and instigating a third – the scribes too failed miserably when attempting to grab a post-match interview with him.
The Argentinian shimmied out of the stadium to enjoy a warm summer evening and leave home fans in the 24,373 crowd dreaming of what might have been.
For the absence of Forestieri – who only returned last month after missing the majority of the season following knee surgery – has been a major factor in Wednesday’s failure to challenge for promotion this season.
In a campaign where the Owls have been robbed of several key players due to long-term injuries, it is talisman Forestieri who has been sorely missed.
The 28-year-old’s return has coincided with a run of five wins from seven games. Before that sequence – and without Forestieri – Wednesday had won just five of their previous 30 Championship outings.
The striker has netted four goals in six outings to pull the Owls clear of relegation.
“He is a good player,” said team-mate Barry Bannan. “Opposition players want to kick him – we want to kick him ourselves when he is not running back.
“But he is such a talent and you just have to let him do his own thing sometimes, work around him.
“He wins games for this club, so we need to keep him fit.
He is such a talent and you just have to let him do his own thing sometimes, work around him. He wins games for this club, so we need to keep him fit.Sheffield Wednesday’s Barry Bannan
“He was a big miss (being injured), but there has been a combination of different players being injured, the spine of the team, big characters.”
Scottish international Bannan, of course, is one of those who has missed a large chunk of the season due to injury.
Out since December, Wednesday’s upturn in results has also coincided with his return last month.
Against Reading, manager Jos Luhukay opted to give 22-year-old Cameron Dawson his third league start in goal – resting fellow Academy goalkeeper Joe Wildsmith – and afterwards confirmed the youngster will retain the shirt for the last two games of the season.
Dawson had just one worrying moment. He dropped the ball, under a challenge from Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, but defender Frederico Venancio saved his team-mate’s blushes by blocking the goal-bound shot.
With the game finely balanced at 0-0 in the first half, a Royals goal could have changed the mood inside Hillsborough.
But it was the hosts who made the breakthrough, and while Forestieri deservedly took the plaudits it was Daniel Pudil – out of contract in the summer – who was the instigator.
The defender picked the ball up deep in his own half, then fed George Boyd before providing an overlapping run down the left flank. When Pudil picked out Forestieri, the Argentinian volleyed home to break the deadlock.
The second goal was a simple tap-in for Boyd from Adam Reach’s low cross.
But it was the determination from Forestieri to chase a lost cause, and refuse to allow the ball to go out for an Owls corner, which caught Reading dozing at the back.
The visitors – still not clear of relegation – had a couple of chances to cut the deficit, Bodvarsson heading wide before Mo Barrow drilled a low shot across goal.
The injured Jack Hunt and striker Jordan Rhodes – who headed wide a first-half effort – were replaced by Lucas Joao and Atdhe Nuhiu.
Portuguese striker Joao should have made it 3-0, but volleyed over after Forestieri’s cross was headed into his path by Nuhiu.
But a goal that will live long in the memory at Hillsborough came on 73 minutes.
Tenacious Forestieri emerged from three challenges with the ball, leaping up from the floor after getting the better of Tyler Blackett before firing beyond a bewildered Vito Mannone from 20 yards.
“He’s a bit like that, he can get kicked pillar to post, but he just tends to get up and get on with it,” said Bannan. “I think that is his upbringing in Argentina, his background, and it’s the same with Messi and all the Argentinians. He’s a tough, tough boy and puts himself about.
“His second goal, he came through two or three tackles, got the ball and finished it off brilliantly.”
Reading ended the game with 10 men when Blackett was shown a straight red card for kicking out at Nuhiu in an off-the-ball clash.
Bannan declared: “It was a good result and we won emphatically at the end. A good performance. We just need to keep going and finish as high in the table as possible.”
Sheffield Wednesday: Dawson, Pudil, Lees, Venancio (Kirby 78), Hunt (Nuhiu 68), Boyd, Reach, Pelupessy, Bannan, Forestieri, Rhodes (Joao 68). Unused substitutes: Wildsmith, Jones, Matias, Nielsen.
Reading: Mannone, Gunter, Blackett, Moore, Ilori, Van den Berg (Kermorgant 58), Kelly, Swift, Aluko (Clement 82), Barrow, Böðvarsson (Richards 78). Unused substitutes: Jaakkola, Edwards, Martin, Rinomhota.
Referee: J Simpson (Lancs).