Sheffield Wednesday: Fernando Forestieri begins to make amends ... Owls 2 Wigan Athletic 1
When embarking on the road to redemption, the first step is arguably the hardest one to take.
By refusing to play against Norwich City last month, Fernando Forestieri let himself, his manager, teammates and the fans down. He was subsequently fined by the club for his actions.
We still don’t know the real reasons behind Forestieri’s behaviour, although there have been some suggestions he was angling for an improved contract, but the talented striker issued a public apology and the club drew a line under the matter.
Like the rest of the team, Forestieri has been inconsistent this term.
But when the Owls needed their main man to make a telling contribution on Saturday, Forestieri stepped up and produced the decisive moment.
His fierce low right shot from an acute angle just after the hour mark gave Adam Bogdan no chance and helped Wednesday secure only their second win of the campaign.
It was a much-needed three points for the Owls and there were plenty of positives for boss Carlos Carvalhal.
For the second match running, Wednesday showed their mettle by coming back from a goal down. Trailing to a fifth-minute Will Grigg strike, lesser teams may have crumbled but the Owls kept going and dominated a one-sided second half.
Two of Carvalhal’s strikers got on the score-sheet, record signing Adam Reach made his debut as a substitute and victory moved them into mid-table.
WILL GRIGG STILL ON FIRE
After Luke Burke made a fine tackle to deny Forestieri a sight at goal in the second minute, Wigan stunned Hillsborough by breaking the deadlock in the fifth courtesy of Will Grigg. Defensively, the Owls were architects of their own downfall as Tom Lees’ pass was intercepted by Michael Jacobs and he made ground down the left before putting in a fine low delivery for Grigg to turn in from close range. It was Northern Ireland international Grigg’s fifth goal in seven Latics starts and another poor, cheap goal for Wednesday to give away.
Wigan, adopting a 5-3-1-1 formation, sat deep and played on the counter attack. Jacobs was a good outlet on the left flank and Grigg put in a hard-working shift as the lone striker.
Their tactics, initially, stifled and frustrated the Owls. A moment of inspiration was required.
FLETCHER UP AND RUNNING
Step forward Barry Bannan. The midfielder was outstanding throughout. He controlled the tempo of the contest and his diverse passing range put Carvalhal’s side on the front foot.
Bannan’s inch-perfect through ball released Steven Fletcher, who held his nerve to fire in his first Owls goal. It was a classy, composed finish by the 29-year-old but the pass from Bannan was exquisite.
Fletcher said: “It was a great pass from Baz. He’s a great player. Some people won’t see it or make that pass but I know if I make the runs Baz will find me.”
Fletcher, who hit the crossbar with a header after the break, was understandably relieved to open his Wednesday account.
“It’s always nice to get off the mark; I wasn’t really thinking about it too much,” he said. “As much as I want to score goals, I just want to play well.
“If other players score the goals, then happy days, but it’s always good to get off the mark and I’m looking forward to Tuesday now.”
As the match wore on, Wednesday grew in stature.
Wigan boss Gary Caldwell said: “Sometimes you just have to hold your hands up and say the other team played very well on the day. They’re a very good team. You have to give the other team credit.
“I think Forestieri, Fletcher - who I know very well - and Bannan are very good footballers and at times are very difficult to stop.”
TOO MUCH CLASS AND QUALITY
Caldwell’s assessment was spot on. Wednesday’s much vaunted forward line made all the difference.
Gary Hooper linked up well with Fletcher after the interval and almost scored with an overhead kick following a great passing move. It would have been goal of the season.
A pumped up Forestieri, ultimately, produced the defining moment of magic but he still has a lot of making up to do before all his past sins will be forgotten.