Match Report: Sheffield Wednesday 2 Blackpool 0

Chris Maguire celebrates his goal
Chris Maguire celebrates his goal
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Stand-in manager Stuart Gray took another step towards making the Wednesday job his own while a player given a fresh chance by him sealed a happy start to 2014 for the club yesterday.

It was hard to guess who was more pleased: Gray, who led the team to the third victory of his reign, or Chris Maguire, who was given only his fourth league start since being signed by Dave Jones 18 months ago.

The second goal of Maguire’s stay - the other was a cracker at Millwall last season - followed Connor Wickham’s seventh for the Owls and rounded off a convincing win against Blackpool.

It also took them out of the bottom three, and raised hopes that the club can sustain a revival - with Gray an increasingly strong contender to be named fully as Jones’ successor, and with another chance for him and the team to shine in the cup tie at Macclesfield on Saturday..

Blackpool, whose home 2-0 win against the Owls was followed by Jones’ sacking, were second best this time, especially in the second half, and fortunate to avoid a heavier defeat.

Earlier the match was under threat from waterlogging after heavy rain but the downpour eased and after a 1.35pm inspection by ref Dean Whitestone it was declared on.

Gray as expected chose 4-4-2 for a home game and put Atdhe Nuhiu and Jacques Maghoma in the starting line-up after their impact as subs at Charlton.

Loan midfielder Stephen McPhail and winger Jeremy Helan missed out..

The sight of further rain falling was a bit of a worry, considering how worsening weather led to the abandonment of the Wigan game last month. But the pitch seemed to play reasonably well in the early stages, with no real sign of surface water.

Wickham could have netted in the 13th minute.

Maghoma made a good run and cut the ball back to the centre forward. But Wickham’s side-footed shot from just inside the box was going wide before it came back off left-back Jack Robinson.

Maghoma had more of a half-chance, which he drove wide from 25 yards, after Wickham charged forward on the break.

The pitch was not conducive to slick passing, but Wednesday looked comfortable, moving the ball pretty well, though achieving very little penetration in the first half, and avoiding the sort of continual errors that marred their defeat by Bournemouth in the previous home game.

Blackpool were not much of a threat and struggled to produce anything like a notable strike at goal.

They also came up against some sound defending around the edge of the Owls box.

Wednesday were off target again with their next effort, hit wide by Maguire after Wickham knocked a Reda Johnson cross to him.

Then they had an escape in the 35th minute. Tom Ince opened them up on the edge of the area, and left-winger Tyler Blackett for an instant looked clean through,

Fine covering by Liam Palmer got in his way and Roger Johnson struck an attempted clearance but the ball hit Blackett and rebounded against the post.

Glenn Loovens, newly signed up until the end of the season, made a classy interception and surged into the box to take a cheeky backheel from Wickham - but the centre-back was in unfamiliar territory, did not shoot when he might have done and was dispossessed by Dan Gosling.

Rain fell early in the second half but it was nothing like the monsoon that halted the Wigan match.

There had never been any dampening of Wednesday’s spirits and they took the lead in the 50th minute.

It began as Lee played a nice ball out left to Reda Johnson.

The captain, having by far his best game of the season, saw his low cross deflected to the edge of the area, and Wickham, initially with his back to goal, spun to rifle a firm, low right-foot shot that was deflected on its way to the net but was on target anyway.

Long-range efforts by Maguire and Wickham reflected the Owls’ confidence but they were over-ambitious and Wednesday were given another fright when, with Blackpool players queuing up for an inswinging free-kick, centre half Gary MacKenzie narrowly failed to make contact in front of goal.

The second goal was going to be important and Wednesday grabbed it in the 59th minute.

Maghoma jinked and knocked a neat little pass inside to Wickham; he made ground and it was probably a cross when the striker, from a narrow angle, drove the ball hard and low towards the far post. where Maguire pounced almost on the line.

Wickham lofted a chance over the keeper but wide, Gilks made a stop after an excellent run and shot by Maghoma and Nuhiu drove a 22-yard opening over the bar.

Wednesday stayed on top and the crowd were loving it.

Maguire got only a free-kick on the edge of the box when he might have had a penalty, Maghoma put a chance wide and Wickham blasted off target in the last minute.

A late appearance by fit-again Michail Antonio was another plus point to add to the three gained for the club’s league tally.

Goals: Wickham (50), Maguire (59).

Owls: Kirkland 7, Palmer 7, Roger Johnson 7, Loovens 7, Reda Johnson 9, Maguire 7 (Antonio 89), Lee 8, Semedo 7, Maghoma 8, Nuhiu 7 (J Johnson 76), Wickham 7. Unused subs: Martinez, McCabe, Helan, Mattock, Llera. .

Blackpool: Gilks 7, Bishop 6, Cathcart 6, MacKenzie, 6, Robinson 7, Ince 6, Gosling 7, Ferguson 6, Blackett 5 (Delfouneso 63, 5), Martinez 5 (Chopra 58, 5), Fuller 6 (Davies 77). Unused: Warner, Eccleston, Barkhuizen, Harris.

Referee: Dean Whitestone (Northampton).

Bookings: Fuller, Reda Johnson, Maghoma.

Attendance: 19,447.