A diamond in the rough - Sheffield Wednesday moment of brilliance seals hard-fought Port Vale win

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It took a taste of the spectacular from Will Vaulks in difficult circumstances, but Sheffield Wednesday left Port Vale with three very hard-fought points on Saturday.

Vaulks’ second half strike from far out sealed the victory at Vale Park as Wednesday climbed up a place in League One to go third, leapfrogging Portsmouth as they were beaten 3-2 away at Ipswich Town.

Things were difficult for the Owls as they struggled to get past Darrell Clarke’s outfit, but Darren Moore’s Wednesday persevered and got what they came for – a third consecutive away win in the league for the first time since April 2017.

October is off to a winning start.

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Bit of a rough surface, there

It’s not an excuse for defeat if you lose, but there’s no doubt that the state of the pitch at Vale Park made things difficult for a Wednesday side that are big on getting the ball down and playing.

They were forced to go long – which is not really their game – because of how hard it seemed to be to get the ball rolling on a pitch that was heavily watered beforehand and looked to have lots of sand on it.

It was a scrappy affair as Sheffield Wednesday faced Port Vale.It was a scrappy affair as Sheffield Wednesday faced Port Vale.
It was a scrappy affair as Sheffield Wednesday faced Port Vale.

Dust clouds kicked up under foot on the near side, and there were numerous occasions where big chunks of the turf came up when a player landed or picked a long ball. Not the sort of game for nice intricate play, that’s for sure.

So what can you do instead?

Well, Vaulks decided that, if you can’t play it nicely and get into the box, it’s better to just smash it top corner instead.

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Wednesday had started the second half brighter after a tough and scrappy opening 45, but they still weren’t able to really break down a stubborn Vale backline, who consistently made it difficult for the Owls to push through.

Vaulks has history when it comes to long-rangers, but his strike against the Valiants may well be up there with his best, even for just how perfectly it nestled in the top corner.

Jack Stevens made a couple of great saves in the first half, but after the Wednesday midfielder – their 15th goalscorer of the season, by the way – connected with a powerful side-footed shot he was left with no chance. A truly memorable strike from range.

Up in the air

Wednesday were made to work very, very hard by a Vale side full of battle and who continued to drive at them. Crosses and long balls were consistently put into the Owls box, and the back three had lots to deal with in what will have been a very demanding game for them.

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The hosts have become known for their prowess from set pieces, and with that having been an Achilles heel for Wednesday there needed to be some serious concentration levels kept up by Moore’s side.

And that’s exactly what they did. Ben Heneghan, Michael Ihiekwe and Reece James won headers, won tackles and put their bodies on the line when they needed to as they repelled Clarke’s side for 90+ minutes. The three were successful in 17 aerials duels, seven tackles and made 18 clearances in the victory – and can take a large chunk of the plaudits.

Onto Plymouth now.