Fine win lifts Owls for Cup-tie

Huddersfield Town v Sheffield Wednesday.....GOAL....Owls players mob first half goal scorer Jeremy Helan
Huddersfield Town v Sheffield Wednesday.....GOAL....Owls players mob first half goal scorer Jeremy Helan
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An away full house of almost 4,000 fans roared Wednesday to a hugely satisfying 2-0 victory at Huddersfield and players threw their shirts to them at the end.

Joy is now turning to anticipation of a great night at Hillsborough for the FA Cup tie against Charlton and a quarter-final against United.

There is no doubting the thirst for glory and the rapport between supporters and a team who have risen to 15th in the Championship table.

The clearest lesson of Saturday’s 2-0 win was that whatever side is fielded by Stuart Gray tonight, a performance of some substance can be expected.

Despite injury problems, despite certain players being rested, and five changes being made, Wednesday’s squad was of sufficient quality to outgun the opposition in one derby and raise hopes of Wembley via a last-eight showdown in another.

Giles Coke, Chris Maguire, Glenn Loovens and Leon Best were all on the bench at the John Smith’s Stadium but will be in Gray’s thoughts for tonight.

So will Benik Afobe after he was left out because only five loan players can be included in a matchday 18 and those spots were filled by Gary Gardner, Sam Hutchinson, Damian Martinez, Best and Adededji Oshilaja, who is ruled out tonight because he is Cup-tied.

Michail Antonio stayed off at half time with a sprained ankle and ended up on crutches; Oguchi Onyewu, handed an unexpectedly early comeback after his calf injury, went off in the 69th minute with a tight Achilles tendon.

It is a blow to lose Antonio when he had only just come back from a two-and-a-half-month lay-off with a knee injury and had begun to regain his form. But Maguire can slot back in on the right flank as he did on Saturday after Antonio stayed off.

Loovens was only rested and took over from Onyewu, and is set to reclaim his place alongside Miguel Llera.

Gray will keep Charlton guessing about whether he switches to 4-4-2 - with Afobe and Best a possible pairing - or sticks with one main striker in the middle - it was Best against Derby last week, Atdhe Nuhiu on Saturday.

Midfield worries have been eased by the remarkable form of Gardner and Hutchinson, with the latter, a right back by preference, looking as if he had played in this area many times; rather than it being his first full game in the position.

But Gray will ponder, with the midfield duo so short of senior football this season, whether two games so close together would be too much for them. Coke must have a chance of a recall.

Jeremy Helan, switched from the left to a more central midfield spot in the second half, with Jacques Maghoma going left, showed that his pace and strength can cause problems for opponents in that area.

He also took his first-half goal smartly, hooking a right-foot shot into the bottom corner after twice charging down attempted clearances by Peter Clarke and after Nuhiu helped on a throw from Liam Palmer.

At that stage Huddersfield had enjoyed some possession, but they were second best in the second half, and Maghoma’s strike killed the contest: Hutchinson fed him and he turned Clarke to slot home his third goal for the Owls.

Wednesday were full value for the points and are unbeaten in their nine away league and cup games under Gray.

He admitted that his team selection was influenced by the Charlton game: “It shows it is a squad game. The players who haven’t been getting regular football have shown what they can do. It’s nice to have that bit of strength in depth.

“Hutchinson and Gardner did really well considering they haven’t played much football together, and to get 95 minutes out of them at that intensity was great. They’re good players. They are not Cup-tied and they come into my thoughts.”

The away crowd’s noisy backing throughout the game was appreciated by Gray as well as the players: “The support was fantastic - but we need all three sides (of Hillsborough) for us and maybe a bit more on Monday.

“I often ask the players to give the fans a lift. One thing we do know is the players are giving 100 per cent commitment and working hard but we want to make it an unbelievable atmosphere for the Charlton game.”

Hutchinson is just happy to be playing again, in view of his history of knee trouble: “I have come to play as much as I can, and be sensible with it. That was my first 90 minutes since September 2012. It has been a long time, but I am just loving it at Sheffield Wednesday. The coaching staff are great and it’s a good atmosphere.”

He does not rule out a longer stay after his month’s loan is up in mid-March, or a full switch to the Championship: “I never played centre midfield before, I am normally a right-back, but whatever happens, happens. I have already retired once, I don’t want to do that again.”

The 24-year-old summed up a happy away day: “We are a new team, haven’t played together much, we didn’t come to terms with it (in the first half). But in the second half, we have done a lot better. Once we got hold of them, they couldn’t handle us. Our fitness showed too. The boys dug in. It was great team performance.”