Retro: 40,000 Owls fans see Cardiff play-off final triumph

Owls skipper Lee Bullen lifts the trophy
Owls skipper Lee Bullen lifts the trophy
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At the risk of putting a jinx on them for Wembley next Saturday, today we look back at the last time Sheffield Wednesday won promotion via the play-offs on May 29 2005.

On a glorious sunny day at the Millennium Stadium Cardiff, 40,000 Owls fans saw their team fight back from 2-1 down to beat Hartlepool United 4-2 after extra-time to reach the Championship.

Just a small section of the massed Wednesday fans at Cardiff

Just a small section of the massed Wednesday fans at Cardiff

The headline on The Star’s match report that Bank Holiday Monday read: The day a football club was re-born.

And Paul Thompson reported: “It wouldn’t be Wednesday if they didn’t do it the hard way.

“The loss of a lead spelled tension, a second Hartlepool goal meant possible disaster, but in the end the supporters could say to Paul Sturrock and his players: “You did us proud.”

Top class decision-making by Sturrock, and a formidable showing by the team, with the added help of a sending off and a penalty, proved too strong for Pools as the Owls deserved their victory.

Within the great tale of a promotion triumph came a series of dramas, none more so than the return of Steve MacLean.

It was a calculated gamble by Sturrock to put the striker on the bench after three months out with a stress fracture. He had not been expected to be ready until the following season.

It was also a decisive move by Sturrock to make a triple substitution when the Owls were trailing 2-1.

They had been first to threaten and created two chances in the firth 13 minutes, Glenn Whelan shooting over and Chris Brunt firing straight at the keeper.

Porter and Boyd went close for Pool and there was a scare when Owls keeper David Lucas went down.

But it was only a muscle spasm and he carried on as the Owls began to get on top, taking the lead in first half stoppage time.

It was Jon-Paul Mc|Govern’s eighth goal of the season. He had started the move carried on by Lee Peacock and Craig Rocastle, who cleverly pulled the ball back for JP to score.

Many Owls fans were still taking their seats for the second half when they were stunned by the equaliser. Humphreys’ long throw clipped the top of Lee Bullen’s head and dropped into the path of sub Effie Williams to volley home.

A vital tackle by Alex Bruce on Boyd in the penalty area prevented a second Hartlepool goal soon after.

Richard Wood, McGovern and Brunt all went close for the Owls but they did fall behind in the 71st minute. Sub Jon Daly had only been on the field for seconds when he powered home a header from a free kick.

Wednesday urgently needed greater forward impetus and Sturrock reacted by sending on Patrick Collins, Drew Talbot and MacLean for Bruce, Peacock and Quinn.

And the equaliser followed in the 82nd minute. Talbot went for a low ball by McGovern and was tugged back by centre half and last man Chris Westwood, who received a red card as the Owls were awarded a penalty.

Although the keeper got a hand to MacLean’s penalty he couldn’t stop it.

Wood, Brunt and McGovern peppered the goal in the last few minutes of normal time but the crucial breakthrough didn’t come until four minutes into extra-time when Whelan made a great run and slotted a left-foot shot inside the keeper’s right-hand post.

The Owls played possession football, taking advantage of the extra man, but had one scare when Bullen made an heroic tackle on Tony Sweeney.

And the icing was on the cake when Drew Talbot surged down the right, went round the keeper and slotted the ball into an empty net in the first minute of stoppage time.

Then it was champagne, ecstasy and almost delirium on the pitch as Wednesday celebrated promotion under Sturrock at the first attempt.

The popular boss said afterwards: “I’ve had seven games like this as player, coach and manager and this is the first I’ve won.

“I’m pleased for the fans, they’ve been incredible. They really dragged the players through a sticky patch in the last month.

“I’m delighted for the chairman (Dave Allen) and the coaching staff. Everyone has been fantastic.”

* The teams -

Wednesday: Lucas, Bruce, Bullen, Wood, Heckingbottom, McGovern, Rocastle, Whelan, Brunt, Quinn. Subs: Collins, MacLean, Talbot

Hartlepool: Konstantopoulus, Barron, Nelson, Westwood, Robson, Butler, Strachan, Sweeney, Humphreys, Boyd, Porter. Subs: Craddock, Daly, Williams.

Referee: P Crossley (Kent).

Attendance: 59,808