DAVID Prutton has enjoyed too illustrious a career to be described as a forgotten man.
But his high-profile signing and stunning goal on the first day of the season have been overshadowed in recent weeks by the team’s exploits without him.
Just in case anyone doubted whether he would expand his influence on the Owls’ promotion challenge, having started only nine game before last Saturday, the midfield player returned to issue a reminder that quality counts.
His goal against Oldham was not as spectacular as his left-foot volley against Rochdale at Hillsborough in August but it was just as impressive in its own way.
Running forward to meet a bouncing ball from the right by Chris O’Grady around 20 yards out, the midfield player flicked the ball over one opponent with his right foot.
As it bounced, and he faced a second defender, he changed direction by stopping, hooking it into the air again with his right foot, over his left shoulder, swivelling to his left at the same time, to make space for a right-foot shot that was drilled into the keeper’s bottom right-hand corner from about 10 yards.
Gary Megson purred: “David is a good lad and a good player.
“He’s been out of the team through no fault of his own. He got injured in training [a torn thigh muscle]. From that point we have done okay with results; David couldn’t get back in the team.
“He’s never moaned, never come to see me about why he’s not been in. He’s accepted his lot, and when he’s got his opportunity, he’s taken it.”
Prutton also adapted well to playing on the right flank, though in the summer he was seen as the central partner for Jose Semedo; Chris Lines came in to take that role and shine.
While Prutton was one of the obvious contenders to return, with James O’Connor still injured, Megson sprang more of a surprise by leaving out Ryan Lowe, the scorer against Aldershot, and giving Sanchez Watt a start up front.
The manager explained: “The pitch wasn’t bad but I thought it would be a bit heavy. The weather wasn’t as bad as I presumed, so we changed things a bit. We got a terrific result.”
The change was the unexpected withdrawal of Marshall at half-time. Megson explained: “Ben wasn’t at his best. He was out for eight days because of a virus.
“Sometimes you go into a game feeling fine, but if you haven’t trained for eight days you’re maybe just a bit off the pace.
“Ben didn’t look himself. Sanchez went out there and did really well, and I put Ryan up top. It worked out okay for us.”
Watt made more impact on the wing than up front. On the whole, he looked quick and strong, and showed some vision.
Lowe not only stuck away the win-clinching penalty with typical composure - his 11th goal of the season - but also had one of his best spells, playing a part in build-up play and posing a threat to Oldham.
Megson acknowledged: “Ryan played really well. He played really well at Tranmere, but his game has to be about more more than just scoring.
“Ryan was a bit disappointed to be left out but we need players who do score but chip in with the other side as well - and Ryan has done that. His hold-up play was great.”
Megson judged than Watt did better out wide than up front, where he and then Lowe had the pleasure of playing with the grafting Chris O’Grady. “Players love playing with Chris,” said Megson. “As a staff we love him because of the work he does for us. He’s so unselfish it’s untrue.
“Our fans were brilliant in terms of their support; they know their stuff as well, and they were singing Chris’s name although he’s not scored.”
O’Grady was involved in Wednesday’s best move of the first half, which ended with Reda Johnson lashing a shot off, target.
A former favourite of Owls fans, Shefki Kuqi, had a much unhappier day. The striker headed an early chance over the bar.
At times in the first half the Latics played with the fluency of a team who had lost only once in 10 games, and there were two chances for Kuqi’s strike partner, Robbie Simpson; one a rather ordinary shot that Stephen Bywater saved compentently the other an effort that was destined for the bottom corner until the keeper spread himself and saved with his right foot.
O’Grady was a provider again in the second half when he sent Lowe through for a crafty shot that was saved at the near post, before Prutton made it 1-0.
Wednesday defended solidly against a response from Oldham, and never looked in danger of slipping up, before making certain of victory thanks to a penalty decision given by a linesman, approved by the referee, and regarded as indistinct by some, including Megson and me.
But TV evidence showed Danny Batth spotted the reason straight away: a collision between Simpson and Watt. Batth was few yards away and appealed immediately.
Simpson looked baffled. But I have no sympathy for him. He seemed to go down all too easily in the Wednesday box a couple of times.
The Owls could have grabbed further goals near the end. A Lines cross was de
flected behind Lowe and O’Gra
dy, and James Tavernier hit a chance wide.
That’s five wins in a row for Wednesday - including the FA Cup - and it’s a good time to be playing Huddersfield at home.