Sheffield Wednesday: Roar power at Hillsborough ... Owls 3 Charlton 0
The Hillsborough roar.
I have heard snatches of it in my 21 months reporting on Wednesday’s fortunes up and down the country. The Arsenal tie immediately springs to mind, but I hadn’t ever heard it in its full glory.
That was until Saturday afternoon.
It is usually the players who get the fans going. This time it was the other way around.
There was a 10-minute spell in the second half before Tom Lees’ opener where the supporters drove the team on, creating an electric atmosphere. I swear they helped suck the ball into the net. It was a wall of noise.
Wednesdayites turned out in their numbers, capitalising on the club reducing the ticket prices for a tussle with one of the Championship’s weaker sides. Even the Leppings Lane stand lower tie was open for home supporters.
A crowd of 29,668 - the Owls’ biggest league attendance of the campaign - watched the players brush aside second-from-bottom Charlton.
“I said to the team before the game that I am not a jealous person,” said head coach Carlos Carvalhal.
“But I felt jealous of my players, being able to walk out and play here at Hillsborough in front of almost 30,000 fans. I was a little jealous of them.
“I told them to enjoy having the ball and playing attacking football.”
Charlton frustrated Wednesday in the opening 45 minutes. As an attacking unit, the visitors offered precious little. But they harried and pressed quickly without the ball.
Without the banned Barry Bannan, the Owls missed a spark in midfield. Charlton limited them to speculative shots.
“Barry has been playing that well, it’s obvious you are going to miss him,” said centre-back Tom Lees.
“He has been fantastic for us since he joined and, no matter how well we play, we would always miss him.
“It’s disappointing the way he has been banned, when you see some of the tackles that have gone in against Charlton.”
Fernando Forestieri’s looping header which was brilliantly clawed out by Nick Pope was the standout moment. After a bright start, the Owls lost their way.
Lees said: “It was a similar story to how it has been at Hillsborough for the last few weeks.
“You can tell it is getting to the business end of the season and things seem a little tense.
“I think we have actually played worse in the first half of games in the last few weeks.
“Against Charlton, I know it was a bit slow at times, but I don’t think we played badly.
“Charlton didn’t commit to the game, they were so deep. There wasn’t much space behind for us to exploit, and they made it difficult for us.”
After the break, it was a completely different story.
Carvalhal freshened things up, throwing on Alex Lopez and Atdhe Nuhiu. Yet again, Carvalhal’s subs made a telling impact.
Spanish midfielder Lopez is neat and tidy in posession. His first thought is a forward pass, rather than square or sideways, and he added more zip and purpose to their play.
Nuhiu ran Charlton’s defence ragged. He wore them down, opening up more space for Forestieri and Gary Hooper to exploit. For the killer second goal, Forestieri gobbled up the rebound after Nuhiu’s header from Jack Hunt’s fine delivery hit the upright.
Lees said: “I thought Atdhe did really well; that shows the options we have up front.
“We have a lot more options than we did last year. We can make substitutions any time and change a game.
“Maybe last year we didn’t have that (quality) to bring off the bench.”
Lopez featured prominently in the Owls’ third goal in 13 second half minutes, seeing his low drive turned in by El-Hadji Ba.
“At half-time, the manager said we weren’t playing badly, but we needed to ‘up it’ and look like we were the team who wanted to get in the play-offs,” said Lees. “I think we did that in the second half.
“He wanted it to quicker, aggressive, not quite so patient. The time of the first goal was good because it forced them to come out. They attempted to commit me forward, and we picked them off.”
At no point did Wednesday panic at the weekend. They kept going and their patience paid off. They got their rewards in the end.
Victory moved them three points clear of seventh-placed Cardiff with eight matches left.
The three clubs directly below Carvalhal’s side all dropped points. By contrast, the Owls show no signs of faltering on the home stretch.
Wednesday’s large following greeted the final whistle with a roar of approval. Indeed, they left the ground, having been richly entertained, and knowing full well they had done their bit lifting the team.
Top marks go to them for their superb vocal backing.
Owls: Westwood 7; Hunt 7, Lees 7, Loovens 7, Pudil 7; Wallace 8 (Matias 83), Lee 7, Hutchinson 7 (Lopez H-T, 7), McGeady 6 (Nuhiu H-T, 7); Forestieri 8, Hooper 7. Substitutes: Wildsmith, Palmer, Sasso, Joao.
Charlton: Pope 7; Motta 7, Fanni 6, Teixeira 6, Fox 6; Gudmundsson 6, Ba 6 (Jackson 78), Diarra 6 (Lookman 83), Suk-Young 5; Harriott 6, Ghoochannejhad 5 (Vetokele 68). Substitutes: Mitov, Lennon, Poyet, Makienok.
Referee: Stuart Attwell (Warwickshire).