Verdict: Sheffield Wednesday claim much-needed victory after Rhodes ends long wait

Jordan Rhodes watches as his header finds the net for what proved the decisive goal in Sheffield Wednesdays 2-1 home victory over Millwall last night (Picture: Steve Ellis).
Jordan Rhodes watches as his header finds the net for what proved the decisive goal in Sheffield Wednesdays 2-1 home victory over Millwall last night (Picture: Steve Ellis).
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Sheffield Wednesday badly required a win, regardless of how it arose, and they got one.

Smiling faces and positivity was the order of the day from beleaguered Owls head coach Carlos Carvalhal as the Portuguese looked to bring the feelgood factor back to S6.

The Owls entered this contest on the back of a wretched run – just four wins in 19 league games.

Extrapolate that over the course of a full season and that is relegation form and not the kind of run that is expected of a club that has been a major player in the transfer market over the past 18 months.

For all their reputation, Millwall should have hardly struck fear into the hosts. After all, Neil Harris’s side had not recorded a victory in a second tier away game since February 2015, a run stretching 15 matches.

The Owls made the perfect start as they went a goal up inside barely three minutes. Ross Wallace’s neat chip found Morgan Fox scampering down the left wing, and the full-back had plenty of time to pick out Adam Reach who sidefooted home inside the box.

It was a second in as many games for Reach, who also opened the scoring in Saturday’s stalemate with Barnsley.

Wednesday will have been determined not to let their opponents back into the game again, but old habits appear to die hard.

After Barry Bannan’s rasping shot tested Jordan Archer, less than a minute later Millwall found themselves level against the run of play.

Glenn Loovens’s slip allowed Fred Onyedinma a clear run down the right flank. The winger showed a clean pair of heels before unleashing a shot that goalkeeper Keiren Westwood could only parry into the path of Tom Elliott.

Despite the acute angle the striker managed to prod the ball home to provoke a chorus of sighs from the Hillsborough faithful.

It could have got worse for the Owls, but after another Loovens error, Onyedinma skewed a shot well wide of Westwood’s goal.

Liam Palmer then drew a fine stop from Archer as Wednesday upped the ante, but their front pair of Gary Hooper and Jordan Rhodes were notably struggling to make any real impression on the game.

Much of the preamble ahead of last night had surrounded Rhodes, who had yet to register a league goal since making his move permanent in the summer.

But despite feeding off relative scraps for the first 43 minutes of this contest, the £8m forward finally showed his worth as he nodded the Owls back in front before the interval.

Rhodes rose highest to flick Ross Wallace’s corner beyond the reach of Archer and the relief was there for all to see.

He almost added a second right at the end of the first half, but his acrobatic effort just sailed past a post in front of the Kop.

There was a scare just after the restart when Shane Ferguson turned on the gas and looked to have drawn a foul from a back-pedalling Palmer inside the box.

To his credit, Ferguson stayed on his feet and Westwood was able to smother his shot behind for a corner.

Wednesday brushed that off and Wallace dug out a shot that just cleared the bar shortly after, before the South London club came back again.

First, Jake Cooper headed straight at Westwood before the centre-half then burst forward and just stabbed wide of goal with Westwood looming.

The Lions were now beginning to show their teeth and Loovens had to be precise with his last-ditch tackle when Jed Wallace shaped to shoot in the box.

Almost instantly the hosts broke upfield and Wallace picked out Rhodes with a cute chip, but the striker nodded just over from a few yards out.

Substitute Steven Fletcher was introduced with just over ten minutes remaining and he almost made an instant impact.

Fox’s lofted ball sat up kindly for the Scot, but his instinctive header came back off the foot of a Millwall post.

Jacob Butterfield, who had quietly impressed on his maiden Hillsborough start, drew a good save from Archer during the latter stages.

With the fourth official’s board indicating four minutes of stoppage-time, hearts were in mouths in three corners of this grand old stadium.

But the home fans’ worries were eased tenfold when Cooper added another chapter to his lively night and earned a second yellow card.

The tall defender chopped down Bannan and was given his marching orders, allowing the Owls to run down the clock and claim three points.

It may not have been pretty, but it was just what the doctor –and Owls boss Carvalhal – had ordered.

Sheffield Wednesday: Westwood, Palmer, Lees, Loovens, Fox, Wallace (Lee 71), Butterfield, Bannan, Reach, Hooper (Fletcher 78), Rhodes (Jones 87). Unused substitutes: Wildsmith, Hunt, van Aken, Joao

Millwall: Archer, McLaughlin, Hutchinson, Cooper, Meredith (O’Brien 73), Onyedinma (Gregory 66), Wallace, Tunnicliffe, Saville, Ferguson, Elliott (Morison 80). Unused substitutes: Martin, Craig, Thompson, Romeo

Referee: J Linington (Isle of Wight).