Late, late show for Sheffield Wednesday in five-goal thriller - Owls 3 Bristol City 2
A stunning, remarkable, extraordinary comeback.
Trailing 2-0 at half-time against a classy Bristol City, an out-of-sorts Wednesday side looked down and out.
But last season’s Play-Off finalists staged a breathtaking second half comeback to claim maximum points in a Hillsborough thriller under the lights.
It is the third match on the spin the Owls have come-from-behind to pick up a positive result and they displayed all the grit and character which will be needed for another promotion tilt.
The pulsating contest featured five goals, two red cards and a missed penalty.
Tammy Abraham’s quickfire double put the Robins in charge and there looked no way back for Wednesday.
But goals after the break from Steven Fletcher, his second in as many outings, Barry Bannan and a last-gasp strike from Kieran Lee sent the home fans delirious and the celebrations will live long in the memory. Lee’s composed finish even prompted boss Carlos Carvalhal to sprint down the touchline towards the Kop.
Hillsborough was rocking as the fans left the ground chanting ‘We’re on our way, on our way, to the Premier League, we’re on our way!’
Eyebrows were raised at Carvalhal’s team selection. He controversially left last season’s top-scorer Forestieri on the bench, opting to pair Gary Hooper and Steven Fletcher up front.
He freshened up his defence, with Jack Hunt preferred to Liam Palmer at right-back. In midfield there was a first Hillsborough start for David Jones and a full home debut to club-record signing Adam Reach.
Kick-off was delayed by quarter of an hour after thunder storm swept across the region and the torrential rain particularly affected the playing surface in the North West corner. Ground staff swept the surface water off the pitch and officials eventually gave the go ahead.
Despite the inclement weather, the playing surface held up well and Wednesday enjoyed plenty of possession in the early skirmishes without creating a meaningful opportunity.
The Robins fashioned the first chance, Lee Tomlin’s 20-yard drive deflected wide after a lovely delivery by O’Dowda. And from the resulting corner, Keiren Westwood had to tip over Aden Flint’s looping header.
Several players miscontrolled and lost their balance on the slippery surface. Both Sam Hutchinson and Fletcher required treatment after bad looking falls.
There was little end product to Wednesday’s enterprising approach play and Reach, playing in his favoured left wing role, fizzed a low effort from distance well off target after a neat lay-off by Fletcher.
It was no real surprise when the Robins opened the scoring in the 33rd minute. Gary O’Neil whipped in a glorious centre into the danger zone and Abraham rose highest to plant a bullet header past Keiren Westwood.
The visitors looked sharper and better. Things got even worse six minutes before the interval as Lee Johnson’s side doubled the lead.
Josh Brownhill surged forward at pace and Wednesday’s rearguard backed off, allowing the midfielder to have a sight at goal. His venomous attempt was brilliantly beaten away by Westwood but Abraham, on loan from Chelsea, headed in the rebound for his eighth goal of the campaign.
The problems kept on mounting up for Carvalhal as Daniel Pudil had to be substituted before half-time because of a knock. Forestieri entered the fray and Reach, one of the hosts few bright spots from a first period to forget, reverted to left-back.
The home faithful greeted the interval with boos but Wednesday were much improved after the re-start.
Carvalhal threw on Ross Wallace at the expense of Jones and the Owls looked far more potent as an attacking force. Wednesday old boy Richard O’Donnell produced a smart save to deny Kieran Lee from an acute angle after a lovely through ball by Reach before Fletcher headed the Owls back in it.
And then came the drama.
First, Hutchinson was penalised for bringing down Pack. Hutchinson lost his balance and slipped over and referee Darren Bond pointed to the spot and sent off the former Chelsea man.
Tomlin, who converted from 12 yards when the two sides last met in April as the Robins cruised to a 4-1 victory, struck his penalty low to Westwood’s right but it hit the post and bounced to safety.
Seconds later, Wednesday broke clear and O’Neil joined Hutchinson for an early bath after receiving his second booking following a late challenge on Hooper.
The momentum appeared to be with Carvalhal’s men as Forestieri volleyed over following a neat chip by Bannan.
But the hosts were not to be denied and equalised courtesy of a goalkeeping howler by O’Donnell. Forestieri teed up Bannan and the Scotland international’s speculative drive from 25 yards out was spilled into the net by boyhood Wednesdayite O’Donnell.
In the closing stages, the Owls piled on the pressure and the Robins were hanging on for dear life. Fletcher, Forestieri and Bannan all came close getting on the score-sheet before Lee’s dramatic late intervention.
*Owls: Westwood; Hunt, Lees, Hutchinson, Pudil (Forestieri 45); Lee, Bannan, Jones (Wallace HT), Reach; Fletcher, Hooper (Sasso 62). Substitutes: Wildsmith, Palmer, Abdi, Nuhiu.
*Bristol City: O’Donnell, Little, Flint, Magnusson, Bryan, O’Neil, Brownhill (Smith 72), Pack, O’Dowda (Reid 82), Tomlin (Golbourne 64), Abraham. Substitutes: Fielding, Ekstrand, Paterson, Wilbraham.
*Referee: Darren Bond (Lancashire)