CHRIS O’Grady has put Wednesday and their fans in seventh heaven with victory in the 127th Sheffield derby.
The striker whose goal sent the Owls on the way to a dramatic draw at Bramall Lane in October cemented himself even more firmly into Hillsborough hearts with a classy winner against the Blades yesterday.
His seventh goal of the season came after Gary Megson had told him he needed to score more.
O’Grady answered by heading home a Lewis Buxton cross in the 73rd minute and rewarding a powerful second-half performance by the Owls as they revived their promotion challenge.
The scorer sprinted to embrace Megson in his celebration, and said he did it on the spur of the moment: “It shows we’re all together,” he said.
With fans chanting “ginger Mourinho” during the game, and “Megson’s barmy army” at the end, and the manager giving a clenched-fist salute to three sides of the ground, it must also have been a hugely satisfying day for the man who went into the game amid speculation about his future after a faltering in the Owls’ promotion campaign and reports of friction between him and Milan Mandaric.
Megson was also lifted into the air by captain Rob Jones as the team celebrated the triumph.
The manager insisted: “It’s about the players and the supporters. There’s a great deal of honesty and pride in the players about their performances.
“Whether that’s got anything to do with what’s gone off off the pitch, I don’t know, but they certainly know how much it means to me to win that game.”
Owls players must also have known the derby was something special when they received a roar from the home crowd even as they walked in from the warm-up.
United fans had hopes of a fifth-minute goal at the Leppings Lane end. Matthew Lowton beat David Prutton - who was playing on the left side of midfield - and crossed to the near post where a back-heel by Richard Cresswell was blocked by Stephen Bywater and cleared by Jones.
Wednesday’s early raids came mainly from set-pieces. A Chris Lines corner was headed over the bar by Reda Johnson.
But a foul by Jose Semedo on Stephen Quinn gave Williamson a free-kick opportunity from 21 yards. The ball came down off the bar, Cresswell got a head to it and Bywater caught it, in the 15th minute.
Acrimony erupted three minutes after that when Jones thought he had been baulked by Harry Maguire in trying to head a fine ball from Antonio and pushed the centre half angrily. Other players got involved. The referee summoned Jones and Maguire, gave them a talking-to and saw them shake hands.
Debut-maker Michail Antonio had already shown pace and a long throw but it was another decent delivery that threatened United when Ryan Lowe was just a yard from contact between the posts.
Wednesday appreciated Mark Halsey’s judgement when Williamson appealed furiously for a penalty after a challenge by Semedo and any contact was deemed not to be a deliberate foul.
Then Prutton had an on-target shot blocked, and Buxton dealt with a break by Ched Evans.
When Danny Batth tangled with Evans in the box in the 42nd minute, the defender lived dangerously. “It was a blatant penalty,” claimed Danny Wilson.
The first half was a fairly even and end-to-end contest, with United showing the greater variety of passing, Wednesday driving forward purposefully at every opportunity, and both teams defending soundly on the whole.
O’Grady showed typical determination and strength in a run down the middle before driving wide from outside the box early in the second half. It was a sign of what was to come.
Wednesday began to take the initiative,- and Megson made an even more positive move by bringing on Gary Madine and Mike Jones for Lowe and Prutton within 18 minutes of the restart - with the Owls’ top scorer and an out-and-out winger asked to provide extra attacking thrust.
There was a resolve about Wednesday which enabled them to boss this half. They continually powered towards the Leppings Lane end, and the Blades’ probing of the first half had vanished.
The breakthrough came via an incisive move.
Antonio played the ball to Buxton. The full-back’s cross from the right was a peach and O’Grady guided his header into Steve Simonsen’s right-hand corner. The scorer sprinted half the length of the pitch to embrace Megson and his staff.
The Owls kept their grip as fans sang “ginger Mourinho” and United made substitutions in an effort to get back in the game.
Ryan Flynn stroked a shot straight at Bywater in the 90th minute, and in stoppage time the Wednesday keeper touched a header by James Beattie over the bar
But Wednesday, sometimes sufferers in added time this season, saw the game out.
They have gone back up to third place and are now only two points behind United, after dropping to fifth on Saturday because of wins for MK Dons and Huddersfield.