SHEFFIELD Wednesday kept up the pressure on Charlton at the top of League One with a hard-fought 2-0 win at Oldham Athletic.
Second half goals from David Prutton and a Ryan Lowe penalty was enough for the Owls who were made to soak up some strong Oldham pressure in the first half.
Gary Megson and Wednesday’s following of around 4,000 were not the only ones who knew the value of Ben Marshall to their team.
The first time the on-loan Stoke winger received the ball today, three opponents were quickly upon him to snuff out any danger.
News of Huddersfield’s interest was a pre-match talking point with Megson commenting: “I’d love to sign him but it will depend on what the circumstances are both at this club and at Stoke City.”
The Owls gave away unnecessary free kicks in the early stages, but it was a corner that should have give Oldham a ninth minute lead.
Kuqi, already with 13 goals this season, was allowed a free header from an accurate delivery by his strike partner Simpson, but powered it over the bar.
The first real threat for Wednesday was from a free kick by Marshall. It was well struck from 27 yards and cleared the bar by inches with the keeper struggling.
Wednesday then had another let off in the 22nd minute, when a mistake by O’Grady could have proved costly. The striker gave away possession mid-way in the Oldham half and the Latics took advantage to stitch together a lovely move down the middle.
Oldham were showing why they had lost only once in their previous ten games.
They were playing confident football and passed the ball accurately through midfield to establish an edge in possession and looked the team more likely to score.
Suddenly, Wednesday put together their best move by far. Jones found O’Grady with a good forward ball, the striker laid it off first time to Marshall who threaded an accurate forward pass to the overlapping Johnson who was charging into the box but with the keeper narrowing the target and a defender closing him down quickly, the left backs shot flew high and wide.
Oldham responded by returning the pressure with the Owls having to defend solidly but they had Bywater to thank in the 42nd minute. Another cohesive move from the Latics ended with Simpson getting clean away down the side right channel with Bywater to beat. The striker aimed for the bottom right hand corner and as the keeper spread himself, the ball was deflected wide by his right boot.
It would have been cruel on the home side, if Wednesday, having done so little going forward in the game, had managed to snatch a goal in the dying stages of the half, but a little spell of pressure was repelled by the home team who earned some well deserved applause at half time for their performance.
Half Time: Oldham 0 Wednesday 0
Wednesday started the second half with Lowe on for Marshall. The winger had not been suffering from an obvious injury, but could have feeling a legacy from a challenge that had taken him over the touch line in the first half.
Lowe went upfront, with O’Grady while Watt was switched to Marshall’s spot on the left wing and was no stranger to playing out wide. The Owls could ill afford to lose their captain as well.
Jones had to be careful after being booked for catching Simpson in an aerial challenge in the 36th minute. When he did much the same again, early in the second half, there was a lecture for the skipper from the referee.
Two corners and a free kick were created through Wednesday pressure straight after half time which put their fans at that end in fine voice.
They should have also been cheering a goal in the 58th minute. As Oldham attacked on the break, Bywater launched a long ball, O’Grady helped it on and Lowe got away down the right. With the keeper to beat, the substitute tried to slip the ball past him at the near post but Cisak made a good save to turn it behind for a corner.
The reprieve was brief for Oldham Athletic. Wednesday re-applied pressure and the goal was created almost out of nothing and was virtually all one man’s work. The recalled PRUTTON flicked the ball past one opponent in the box, then another before making space for himself and drove him a low shot.
It was a terrific goal, in the 62nd minute and brought a wild celebration for the Owls players and their supporters, with one or two spilling on to the pitch in their excitement.
The Owls had to concentrate with Oldham stunned in to coming forward and creating pressure. Semedo, booked a little earlier for a foul, was furious when Simpson went down along side him in the box. It looked like a dive by the forward who had otherwise shown some talent this afternoon.
The excitement died down a little with Oldham steadying themselves and Wednesday trying to make sure they gave nothing away. A counter attack then by Wednesday saw a shot by Lowe deflected for a corner.
Lines’s kick brought a header by Johnson that was well saved, Oldham then survived a scramble only to then suffer as an unclear penalty decision given against them.
LOWE firmly sidefooted the penalty to get his second goal in successive matches in the 84th minute. A cross by Lines just eluded O’Grady and Lowe then Tavernier put a chance wide with his left foot as Wednesday flourished in the final stages.
For a full report, plus match pix, see the Green’Un