Sheffield Wednesday: George Hirst double secures Owls Under-23s place in play-off final

George Hirst celebrates his first goal
George Hirst celebrates his first goal
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George Hirst further enhanced his burgeoning reputation by bagging a first half double in Wednesday’s Professional Development League Two play-off semi-final win over Millwall.

The talented striker, who the Owls are hoping to tie down to a long-term contract, was a constant menace and took his goal tally to 34 for the season.

Fraser Preston looks to get past Danny McNamara

Fraser Preston looks to get past Danny McNamara

But it was a good all-round team performance on a cold evening at Hillsborough and the result set up an all-Yorkshire final against Hull City. The Tigers edged out Charlton Athletic in the other semi-final, winning 5-4 on penalties after it finished three apiece following extra time. A date for the final has yet to be confirmed.

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Boss Neil Thompson told The Star: “We are delighted to reach the final. The lads put a big shift in.

“It was not particularly pretty in the second half. We defended quite a lot. We knew they were going to be quite direct but we dealt with that. I thought we restricted them to next to nothing.”

Matt Penney

Matt Penney

Watched on by chairman Dejphon Chansiri, Wednesday could have gone ahead in the first minute but Hirst headed over Fraser Preston’s dangerous centre.

Millwall failed to heed that warning and England Under-18 international Hirst converted his second opportunity. He nipped in at the near post to send a right foot shot, with the aid of a deflection off defender Christian Mbulu, over goalkeeper Ryan Sandford following great work out wide by captain Jack Stobbs.

But the Lions, who finished as runners-up in the PDL2 South, slowly improved after a sluggish start, with Jamie Philpot heading over Mason Saunders-Henry’s free-kick.

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Neil Thompson

Neil Thompson

Wednesday, missing a string of players through injury, including Connor O’Grady, James Murphy and Sean Clare, were pegged back just before the half hour mark. Philpot outwitted Jordan Thorniley before deftly lifting the ball over Cameron Dawson from 15 yards out.

The hosts quickly regroup and Hirst grabbed his second, rifling home after Sandford spilled Matt Penney’s fierce 25 yard drive.

“George is a goal-scorer and scored two great goals,” said Thompson. “His second was a predatory strike.”

Hirst was denied a hat-trick in a low-key second period as the Owls sent a big crowd home happy.

George Hirst battles with Millwall's Harry Donovan.

George Hirst battles with Millwall's Harry Donovan.

*OWLS: Percival, Williams, Thorniley, Penney; Stobbs, Baker, Kirby, Preston (Hayford 81); Betra (Clarke 64), Hirst. Substitutes: Wallis, Cook, Hunt.

*Millwall: Sandford; Brown, Mbulu, Rooney, Chesmain; Twardek (White 56), McNamara (Wicks 68), Donovan, Saunders-Henry (Leighton 78); Smith, Philpot. Substitutes: Hanson, Girling.

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Connor Kirby

Connor Kirby