THERE have not been many great days for the Owls this season but Saturday was one of them.
The management and players did themselves proud in one the best performances of the campaign so far.
Whatever happens between now and May, this will always be looked back upon as one of the highlights.
It was a triumph for Dave Jones’ tactics and team selection and for the players who put the plans into practice.
Jones surprised everybody by fielding both Michail Antonio and Jermaine Johnson up front. No place for Chris Maguire, Mamady Sidibe, Gary Madine or Chris O’Grady.
Without David Prutton in midfield, he passed over Chris Lines, Jose Semedo and Paul Corry, and handed Giles Coke his first league appearance for the club since April, 2011.
Coke supplied a steadying influence in midfield, and poached a goal that was unfairly disallowed for an allegedly high foot.
The pace of the two frontmen, aided by that of Kieran Lee and the returning Jeremy Helan, posed Hull continual problems, as did a change in emphasis in the Owls’ game.
With no big centre-forward to aim for, there was less of the team’s recent direct, long-ball stuff, and more passing, getting it out wide, and looking to utilise pace to pierce Hull’s’ three-centre-back system down the flanks or through the middle.
Lee and Helan also helped to nullify the danger of the Tigers’ renowned, quick wing-backs, Ahmed Elmohamady and Robbie Brady, and contributed to the threat that Wednesday posed on the break.
“We’d been working on the game plan all week,” explained Jones. “We didn’t come with a defensive line-up; we had quick players. We knew we would have to soak up pressure because of the way Hull keep the ball. We knew that when we were in possession we would have to use it well. We did that.
“We played really well and deserved everything we got.
“Playing without a real target man, you know you can get away with that away from home; there will be space in behind because the home team will be pressing.
“Sometimes when you have a big fella up front, there is a tendency to go long. We knew we couldn’t do that, because they have three centre-halves. If we were going to play the way we wanted, we had to get between the centre-halves and down the side of them; the only way we were going to do that was with pace. With the two up front and the two out wide, we knew we could get in.
“Bringing in Cokey, because we’d lost David Prutton, gave us that experience on the ball. When we got hold of the ball, we needed to use it well. I thought he was outstanding - as they all were.
“Unfortunately his goal was disallowed; I thought he deserved a goal because of his performance.
“As with Pruts, who came back here after being on loan, if you think you can use a player, then you use him. We needed players who were comfortable on the ball;
Rhys McCabe had to stay off [at half-time] because he was unwell; Jose Semedo came on and did brilliantly; he shut it down again.
“Everybody played their part. I thought Kieran Lee was outstanding, he really was.
“Anthony (Gardner) and Miguel (Llera) did well at the back and the
whole defensive unit did well.”
Even Steve Bruce had to admit that Wednesday deserved to win. He thought the first goal, headed home by Reda Johnson from a free kick from McCabe, was offside. I thought Miguel Llera was level when the ball was played (TV evidence was inconclusive because the camera wasn’t level), and then Llera was ducking out of the way rather than interfering when Johnson made contact.
The free-kick was won from a foul forced by Helan’s pace on the break; he also made an opening that foundered on a poor first touch by Antonio.
Bruce admitted that things were evened up anyway because Coke’s goal, knocked home after a Lewis Buxton free-kick, and which would have put Wednesday two up, should have been given because in fact there was no foul on the keeper.
Jones called the decision an “absolute shocker”.
With Owls players celebrating near the corner flag, and Hull launching a swift counter attack. It brought to mind the famous game at Millwall where the home team were rejoicing as Wednesday broke away for Frankie Simek to score.
Fortunately, Hull failed to make the most of their good fortune as the ball was won back immediately and Jermaine Johnson tested keeper Jakupovic - one of Wednesday’s many other menacing attacks in the game.
Hull could also have been down to 10 men from the 17th minute; Jones described Abdoulaye Faye’s two-footed tackle on Jermaine Johnson as being like an Excocet missile.
With Hull throwing men forward as the second half wore on, then equalising in the 83rd minute with Robert Koren’s deft, glancing header, there was a worry that Wednesday were not going to get their just desserts.
But it was a deserved bit of fortune when Jakupovic fumbled Llera’s corner over the line - doubly unfortunate for the keeper as he was accidentally caught by Reda Johnson after the ball had crossed the line.
The keeper’s facial injury caused a nine-minute hold-up.
It was in the sixth minute of stoppage time when a classic counter attack saw Antonio use his strength and speed to round the sub keeper coolly and make victory secure.
A penalty for a foul by Helan on Jay Simpson was almost academic, and Kirkland’s save from Simpson, in the 13th minute of added time, added to the Wednesday successes.
By the time Jakupovic had been replaced and there had been other stoppages, including the penalty, the total amount of time added before the final whistle sounded was, according to my stopwatch, 13 minutes and 27 seconds.
It was another extraordinary element of an amazing day.