SHEFFIELD Wednesday won their final match before Christmas with a strong all round team performance against Charlton Athletic.
A first half blockbuster from Rhys McCabe and an injury time strike by Jeremy Helan, playing in his final game on loan from Manchester City, were the difference between two clubs that were promoted last season from League One into the Championship.
After heavy rain Referee Gary Sutton made two inspections of the pitch around lunchtime but it stood up remarkable well to the deluge - unlike the carpark in Penistone Road, opposite the ground which was under water.
During the warm up the ball did not seem to unduly effected by surface water on the pitch and well before kick off the rain had begun to ease up.
Reda Johnson was given a big cheer from the Kop on his return but it was a baptism of fire when he was twice beaten for pace in the opening minutes by Charlton’s lively right winger, Lawrie Wilson. On the second occassion, he committed a foul and earned him a lecture from the referee.
Johnson upended Wilson again and the referee had no option but to book him in the 12th minute.
With Lines not playing, Llera took the right side corner at the Leppings Lane end from which the Owls took the lead with one of the best goals seen at Hillsborough in many a day in the 20th minute.
The ball was cleared to the edge of the box where MCCABE unleashed a left foot volley of stunning power which flew past Hamer into the roof of the net. It was his first ever goal for the Owls and what a way to open his account.
Wednesday had just the one scare before half time when Haynes made ground in the are and tried to find Kermorgant in front of goal. For a moment there was danger but Reda Johnson put the winger off with a strong tackle and as the ball ran over the line, a goal kick was given much
to the Kermorgant’s disgust.
Haynes did have the ball in the net just before half time, but the offside flag was up and the Owls saw out a fairly impressive first half.
Charlton manager Chris Powell did not appear in the technical area in the second half and it looked as if he had been sent to the stand after an incident that followed the half time whistle.
Powell had gone on to the pitch to confront the referee as was clearly upset about something - perhaps feeling that has team should have had a penalty for the challenge by Reda Johnson on Kermorgant which was ruled to be a goal kick to Wednesday.
Wednesday could have had a second in the 57th minute. Llera delivered a diagonal free kick into the box from the right and Gardner, around ten yards out jumped for a clear header that from a certain angle looked as if it was going in but it dropped just wide.
That was followed by a big let off for the Owls after a cross into the Wednesday box and a far post knock down found Haynes a few yards out, but he somehow missed connecting with the ball. Prutton received a bang in the face and went off after treatment, replaced by Lines on 66 minutes.
The visitors brought on Hulse for Haynes and the winger, Green came on for Frimpong and they kept coming forward, forcing stout defending from Llera
and Gardner who blocked an on target shot from Fuller with the subs reaction showing that the ball had been on its way to the net with Kirkland beaten.
Helan releived the pressure with an enterprising run. He played a one two with Antonio, kept going though surrounded by defenders and from the left tried a near post shot that was held by Hamer.
Jackson who scored the winner with a great free kick in the top corner at Hillsborough last season, tried his luck again, this time from 32 yards but Kirkland watched the ball sail a couple of feet over the bar. Wednesday tried to kill time by keeping the ball near the corner flags and got close to a second goal when a chip from McCabe cleared the bar by just inches.
In the last of the four added minutes HELAN showed great pace on the left side of the box and smashed home a low shot from an almost impossible angle to make it 2-0.
Sheffield Wednesday (4-4-2): Kirkland, Buxton, Johnson (R), Gardner, Llera, Antonio, McCabe, Prutton, Helan, Madine, O’Grady. Subs: Bywater, Taylor, Lee, Lines, Johnson (J), Maguire, Sidibe.
Charlton Athletic (4-4-2): Hamer, Solly, Morrison, Cort, Seaborne, Wilson, Jackson, Frimpong, Haynes, Kerkar, Kermorgant. Subs: Sullivan, Dervite, Green, Pritchard, Wright-Phillips, Fuller, Hulse.
Referee: Gary Sutton, Lincolnshire.
Read Paul Thompson’s full match report in the Green ‘Un this weekend and The Star on Monday, December 24.