Match report: Sheffield Wednesday 2 Leicester City 1

Connor Wickham hits home the first Owls goal
Connor Wickham hits home the first Owls goal
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Whoever takes over as Owls manager will inherit a side discovering fresh energy and belief on the evidence of a heartening victory against the Championship leaders, writes Paul Thompson.

After three successive defeats and the sacking of Dave Jones, the team selected and prepared by Stuart Gray produced one of the best displays of the season.

They battled all the way and showed confidence and skill that belied their lowly position , fighting back from the familiar blow of an early goal to win with two strikes from Connor Wickham, one a stunner.

The Owls also showed steel when Leicester came at them in the second half.

Yet it all started so unpromisingly. Right-winger Anthony Knockaert beat Joe Mattock and smashed a brilliant finish into the roof of the net at the near post in the third minute.

But Wickham surpassed that with the equaliser five minutes later.

A high right-wing cross by Liam Palmer seemed to have been over-hit; Wickham, however, took it on his chest on the far side of the box then whipped a terrific right-foot shot into the far top corner.

Wickham, who scored in the Owls’ 1-0 win at Leicester last season, looked lively and strong and had a shot beaten away by Kasper Schmeichel after being found by a through ball from midfielder Giles Coke.

Wednesday’s quick response, after that early blow, had got the crowd right behind them and they had the confidence to take the game to the leaders - but left-winger Lloyd Dyer had a chance for Nigel Pearson’s side, drilling a shot into the Kop from the corner of the six-yard box.

Some of Wednesday’s attacking play was slick and they made nonsense of the fact that almost the whole of the table separated them and Leicester.

The second goal carried an element of fortune but the Owls deserved it. A corner by the impressive Giles Coke was half cleared and Jacques Maghoma knocked a short pass to Wickham.

The striker, in almost the same spot from where he had hit the first goal, whipped in a low ball with his right foot and this time it seemed intended as a cross - but it was a dangerous one played in between the keeper and defenders and curled just inside the far post.

Although the Foxes were not posing much of a threat, Owls fan Jamie Vardy was given a golden opportunity in the 34th minute. He was in behind the Wednesday defence to receive a dropping ball but badly mistimed a volley, the ball bouncing tamely into the arms of Damian Martinez.

Wickham was shooting at every opportunity - even when it was a free-kick around 35 yards

A crowd more used to anxiety saw plenty of things to applaud and gave the team an ovation at half-time.

Knockaert, hurt just before half-time by a tackle for which Mattock was booked, made way for Dean Hammond at the interval.

A couple minutes after the restart, Martinez made a vital block on Vardy and when the ball ran loose to David Nugent he knocked it wide.

This was part of a livelier spell by Leicester - but Wednesday kept up the energy and effort. When Maghoma threw himself into a tackle, to the delight of home fans, it was typical of the team’s commitment.

Martinez again played his part, in the 58th minute. A volley from Nugent looked destined for the top corner but the keeper sprang to his left to push the ball for a corner.

It was the best moment so far in a Wednesday shirt for the on-loan Arsenal keeper who has displaced Chris Kirkland.

With Leicester making most of the running in this half, Wickham had a quieter time - but he went close to a fantastic goal, a blur of a shot that was kept out by Schmeichel.

Coke seemed to be feeling an injury before he was replaced by Jose Semedo. Coke and Seyi Olofinjana had been big influences in midfield, with the latter doing some excellent stuff to subdue the visitors in this second half.

Wednesday hung on as the game went into five tense added minutes. Leicester even threw Schmeichel forward for a set-piece.

But it was relief and celebration at the end for the home fans after their team secured only a second win of the season.

Gray made four changes after the 2-0 defeat at Blackpool in Dave Jones’ final game,

Ex-Zaragoza centre-half Glenn Loovens, a Jones signing who had only been awaiting international clearance from the Spanish FA, which arrived yesterday, came in for Miguel Llera.

Injured Lewis Buxton’s right-back spot went to Palmer, Kieran Lee came in on the right side of midfield for his first game of the season after recovering from a hip operation, and Atdhe Nuhiu was recalled up front in a return to 4-4-2, with Semedo and Jeremy Helan missing out.

Meanwhile, Rotherham manager Steve Evans revealed last night that an approach about him was received from an “un-named club”.

Earlier he was linked with the Owls and backed down to odds-on favourite by boomakers, which was followed by Evans expressing his commitment to Rotherham and Millers chairman Tony Stewart saying: “I would like to clarify that Steve Evans will not be joining Sheffield Wednesday. We will now draw a line under speculation.”

Owls: Martinez 7, Palmer 7, Roger Johnson 7, Loovens 7 (Llera 88), Mattock 7, Lee 7, Coke 8 (Semedo 71), Olofinjana 8, Maghoma 7, Nuhiu 7 (J Johnson 82), Wickham 8, Subs: Kirkland, McCabe, Helan, McPhail.

Foxes: Schmeichel 7, Wasilewski 6, Morgan 7, Miquel 7, Koncheski 6, Knockaert 7(Hammond ht, 6), James 7, Drinkwater 7, Dyer 6 (Schlupp 78), Nugent 7 (Wood 68), Vardy 6. Subs: Logan, King, Moore, Taylor-Fletcher.

Goals: Knockaert (3), Wickham (8, 25).

Referee: Mark Brown (East Yorkshire).

Bookings: Mattock.

Attendance: 20,016.