SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY striker Fernando Forestieri just loves hogging the headlines when it comes to Norwich City.
In August, the Argentinian striker refused to play against the Canaries at Carrow Road amid speculation of a big-money move away from S6.
How Norwich defenders must have wished he had cried off on Saturday, too.
Forestieri delivered a stunning individual display against the Canaries. The 27-year-old netted a 30-yard free kick on 66 minutes to complete Wednesday’s best result – and performance – of the campaign in front of a 28,178 crowd.
But, aside from the goal – his 11th of the season – Forestieri was a constant menace to the visitors.
He provided two assists, for the first of Jordan Rhodes’s brace and Morgan Fox’s header, and his trickery on the ball plus persistence when out of possession to chase the opposition left Norwich floundering.
Ross Wallace’s 15th-minute goal had set the Owls – looking to ease a mini-wobble after back-to-back defeats against Brentford and Leeds United – on course for victory which leaves them just four points behind third-placed Huddersfield Town.
Forestieri is hoping their five-goal display can provide the platform for a final flourish to the season in their remaining 11 games.
“This is a rare group, a nice group, you can see on the pitch,” said Forestieri, now settled at Hillsborough after signing a new contract.
“Today we showed everyone we can do something important this season.
“Last season, we were in the play-off (final) and we showed we can do it this season as well.
“After we lost at Leeds we had to come back strong, and in this Championship anything can happen. Today is a good result for us and we need to keep going like that.
“We took the challenge and we said for us it is the start of the season now, because, compared to Leeds, we played so good.
“I think we’ve started again. Everybody is playing for each other and everybody wants to play. Today we saw everything.
“It’s more important at this point in the season that we win, it doesn’t matter who scores.
“Today, I did two assists. If I can score 15 or more okay, it’s good for me and my career, but I want to help my team-mates and Sheffield Wednesday to win or draw every game.”
The key to Saturday’s win was a positive start from the hosts, and midfielder Sam Hutchinson was at the heart of it.
He blocked a pass, then chased the loose ball deep into the corner, forcing City goalkeeper John Ruddy to shank his clearance.
It fell at the feet of Wallace 40 yards from goal and the Scottish midfielder fired home into an empty net.
“Beckham? I wouldn’t go that far,” smiled Wallace. “The ball skipped out and I just tried to get it on target.
“I had a good first touch, got the ball in front of me, and knew no-one was behind me.
“I just wanted to ping it, as low and as hard as I could, and hope for the best.
“Obviously, the boy tried to clear if off the line but just couldn’t keep it out.”
After a hectic start to Rhodes’s Wednesday career – the on-loan Middlesbrough played his last five games in 15 days – the Owls worked hard on the training ground last week with their new January arrivals.
One of the key areas was how to create chances for new January arrivals Sam Winnall and Rhodes, and the Middlewood Road graft paid off as Forestieri’s 22nd-minute cross saw Rhodes create space before heading in to make it 2-0.
Cameron Jerome, the former Owls youth player, headed in from Steve Naismith’s deflected shot to make it 2-1, before Fox netted his first goal for Wednesday from Forestieri’s corner.
Bannan’s teasing cross picked out Scotland international team-mate Rhodes on 54 minutes, before Forestieri wrapped up victory – described by Owls head coach Carlos Carvalhal as their best display of the season – with his long-range free-kick.
“We were fantastic all afternoon,” said Wallace. “We have been disappointed with the last two games, and we wanted to put on a performance to try and show the fans we have that hunger.
“We managed to do that and the fans were outstanding.
“Norwich are a good side, so we knew it would be a good game. But we turned it on today.
“We have players who can produce a bit of magic. Also, we worked hard, closing down, and working off each other.
“We had come away from that a little bit, maybe with the new players (in January), but they have started to adjust and get to grips with that now. Hopefully, that performance can kick us on.”
Wallace reserved special praise for fellow scorers Rhodes and Forestieri.
“I am really happy for Jordan, he has worked his socks off,” he said.
“Fernando is one of those players, when he is on form he is so hard to play against.
“He was fantastic, but he has to play like that every single week.”
Sheffield Wednesday: Westwood, Hunt, Sasso, Loovens, Fox, Bannan (Semedo 74), Hutchinson (Jones 34), Wallace (McManaman 77), Forestieri, Rhodes, Winnall. Unused substitutes: Wildsmith, Fletcher, Reach, Palmer.
Norwich City: Ruddy, Pinto, Martin, Klose, Dijks, Tetley, Howson, Josh Murphy (Bennett 45), Hoolahan (Pritchard 71), Naismith (Jacob Murphy 71), Jerome. Unused substitutes: Whittaker, Wildschut, Lafferty, McGovern.
Referee: A Davies (Hampshire).