Sheffield Wednesday: In-form Owls seek more home comforts

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It was one of those magical, memorable occasions which don’t come around very often.

When Wednesday last played Brighton and Hove Albion on their own turf, it was under the lights at Hillsborough in the first leg of the Championship Play-Off Semi-Finals.

Ross Wallace

Ross Wallace

The atmosphere inside the famous old ground was electric. Fans belted out ‘Carlos had a dream’ and “We’re Sheffield Wednesday, we’re on the way back” before lighting up one of English football’s great cathedrals with their mobile phones.

RECALL: Remember the atmosphere the last time Brighton came to Hillsborough? Watch this video

Centre-back Tom Lees admitted: “At one point when one side was bouncing, I could see on the pitch, the floodlights were actually moving. I thought, ‘Jesus, the stand’s going to come down in a minute!’

“That shows how much noise and how much passion there was.”

The team rose to the challenge in front of over 34,000 supporters as goals either side of half-time by Ross Wallace and Kieran Lee put them firmly in charge of the tie.

While the Owls were in dreamland, almost everything went wrong for Brighton. They suffered four key injuries: Connor Goldson, Tomer Hemed, Steve Sidwell and Anthony Knockaert and had to play the final half an hour with 10 men. It was a Friday the 13th to forget for Chris Hughton’s outfit.

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Although the Seagulls gave Wednesday a real fright in the first half of their clash down on the South Coast, they gave themselves too much to do, with Carlos Carvalhal’s team sealing a 3-1 aggregate win.

After falling at the final hurdle, both sides strengthened their squads over the summer. Both look well-equipped to push for promotion again.

Just one point and four places separate the Owls and Brighton in the table. It could be small details that decides the final outcome of tomorrow’s much-anticipated duel.

Buoyed after helping Wednesday secure their first away win, Steven Fletcher is targeting a fourth consecutive home victory.

“It would be a fantastic week for us if we got the win,” the striker told The Star. “Brighton will be a huge test for us so hopefully we can get the three points.

“The boys can then relax going into the international break. We just have to knuckle down, get our legs rested and prepare well for it.

“It’s a long season and we have a lot of games coming up which we have to be ready for.”

Scotland international Fletcher netted his 100th career league goal in Tuesday’s hard-earned success at Blackburn Rovers. It was the 29-year-old’s fourth strike in his last six appearances for club and country.

He admitted: “I’m feeling good. I’m still trying to build up my match fitness.

“I have missed a lot of football over the last few years which is disappointing but my match sharpness is improving all the time.”

It was Blackburn boss Owen Coyle who brought Fletcher to English football in the first place. He broke Burnley’s transfer record to sign him in 2009 and inquired about his services over the summer following his release by Sunderland.

“I brought Steven Fletcher to the country for £2.75m and subsequently he went for £8m and then £14m,” said Coyle. “He’s a wonderful player.

“I spoke to him in the summer to try and bring him to the club and he was keen to work with us again but when the representatives got involved financially we could get nowhere near it.

“If I tell you the amount of players I have brought in for the salary what would have been involved to get Fletcher, then you’ve got more than half a team.”

The pair shared a warm embrace in the players’ tunnel after the Roses encounter. While Fletcher was happy to see Coyle again, he admits there is no room for sentiment in football.

The three-goal forward said: “Owen was the first manager to bring me to England so I have a lot to thank him for. He was great with me.

“It was a bit bittersweet for me scoring against Owen’s side but that’s football. You are always going to come up against your former managers, especially me as I have had a lot of managers in my time!”

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