The Verdict: Superman Kieran Lee gives Sheffield Wednesday injection of intent

KIERAN LEE has been hailed as Sheffield Wednesday's very own '˜Superman' after making a surprise return from injury.

Steven Fletcher celebrates his goal. (Picture: Steve Ellis)

The 29-year-old Owls midfielder has hardly played – or trained – since undergoing hip surgery after playing against Wolverhampton Wanderers on January 2.

Head coach Carlos Carvalhal expected him to miss the rest of last season, such was the magnitude of the injury.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

But he managed to play the final five games of last season – including the play-off defeat to Huddersfield Town – only to then be sidelined once again.

Kieren Lee celebrates his goal with Barry Bannan. (Picture: Steve Ellis)

Lee missed the entire pre-season, and has not been able to train fully since returning to regular duties at the club’s Middlewood Road training ground.

Despite not playing a game since May 17 – four months ago – he was plunged into the starting XI in the 3-1 win over Nottingham Forest, turning in such an energetic, assured display which defied logic.

The former Oldham Athletic defender – who has been converted from a right-back to midfielder at Wednesday – even capped his evening off with a deserved goal.

It all left team-mate Jack Hunt purring at Lee’s performance.

Steven Fletcher scores Wednesday's second against Forest (Picture: Steve Ellis)

“I have never played with a player like him in my entire career,” said Hunt. “The guy can train so little after having such a big operation, then to come back and give what he has given us today, it’s amazing.

“I can’t explain how big a player he is for our team. It was really pleasing to see him get a goal for all the hard work he has put in behind the scenes.

“He gives us so much energy, so much legs, he understands the game so well, and he can get forward as well as cover so many positions because he is so quick.

“He can do anything, he can break play up, comes over and helps me on the right, goes over to the left. He is everywhere and the energy he gives us is brilliant.

Kieren Lee celebrates his goal with Barry Bannan. (Picture: Steve Ellis)

“You look at him and how much he runs, gives the rest of the team a kick up the bum, and gets us going. He is like Superman. He never ever complains, gets on with his work, and I have never once heard him say he is sore.”

Owls boss Carvalhal added: “It was the first game of the season for Kieran Lee. He is a super, athletic player and he will play better.”

Wednesday – so often slow starters – raced out of the blocks on Saturday in front of the watching Sky viewers.

An opening blitz could have produced several goals, as Forest were run ragged.

Steven Fletcher scores Wednesday's second against Forest (Picture: Steve Ellis)

Forest goalkeeper Jordan Smith dived to keep out Steven Fletcher’s volley, before palming away a shot from Dutch defender Joost van Aken, who was making his debut.

Left-back Adam Reach played in Gary Hooper, who slipped his marker, only to fire just over the crossbar.

Forest had a chance, but Jason Cummings fired wide after good work from Ben Brereton, but the Owls were good value for their 23rd-minute lead.

Smith’s clearance only found Barry Bannan, the Scottish midfielder rolling the ball into the path of Hooper who fired home.

But the lead lasted just six minutes. Van Aken made a rare mistake, failing to halt Ben Osborn’s surge into the box, the midfielder firing home low beyond Keiren Westwood.

Forest goalkeeper Smith saved from Ross Wallace, while Owls defender Tom Lees rescued his side, heading off the line after Cummings beat Westwood.

“The lads were saying they thought it might have been offside,” said Hunt, of Cummings’s effort, “but the flag didn’t go up and Tom stopped a goal for us.

“It was as good as a goal. But I have said it many times, he’s one of the best centre-backs – outside of the Premier League – I have played with. You get used to see him doing amazing things because he is so good.”

With the game in the balance around the hour mark – and Wednesday having failed to score more than once in the league this term – the next goal was always going to be vital.

And the Owls grabbed it, Lee’s corner being headed home by Fletcher.

Lee himself then pounced, after Hunt’s cross caused panic in the Forest defence, to earn the Owls their first home win in the Championship this season.

“We started fantastic,” said Hunt. “It’s been a long time coming, we know ourselves we don’t start the best, we don’t know why.

“Today was different, we could have had three goals in the first 10 minutes.

“The goal came, great finish from Gary, and I think we conceded a sloppy goal. We could have stopped it, but give credit to Nottingham Forest, they came here and did really well.

“They took the game to us and it could have pone either way just after half-time. The next goal was going to be massive, and thankfully it was us.

“We then saw out the game, which was pleasing for us, as we haven’t done that this season. We haven’t scored more than one goal in a match, so to get three is very pleasing.

“A good performance, everyone goes home happy, we just need to do the same again now on Tuesday (at home to Brentford).”

Carvalhal said: “After eight minutes, I looked at my watch and we’d achieved five clear chances to score goals.

“We never lost control of the game. In the second half we were solid and compact and waited for our opportunity again. We made it 2-1 and 3-1.

“After that, we closed the shop – no sales anymore – and finished the game.”