A job well done: Lee Gregory nets first in blue and white as Sheffield Wednesday see off Fleetwood Town at Hillsborough
All that was missing, really, was a second goal as Sheffield Wednesday recorded a solid 1-0 win over Fleetwood Town under the Hillsborough lights on Tuesday evening.
Lee Gregory’s first goal in blue and white in front of an appreciative Kop sealed three points and a solid evening at the office, one that served as a reminder if it were needed that there are no gimmes in this league, no matter how fanciful the opposition.
20 years ago Fleetwood Town weren’t even called Fleetwood Town – that came in 2002 – and Fleetwood Freeport played in the North West Counties League, a league that currently counts the likes of Skelmersdale United and Congleton Town in their number.
It’s been a meteoric rise and while the joke in the press box is that we’re not allowed to use the term ‘cup final’ to describe Hillsborough evenings in front of crowds like that, it’s certainly an outing you think will inspire some of the smaller clubs in the division, that Wednesday will be hit hard in the opening stages of matches.
But not on Tuesday night. It’s no slight on the visitors – given comparative resources Wednesday probably should boss some of the smaller sides in this division – but that they grasped control of the match from the getgo was impressive; out-running, out-passing and yes, for large periods out-classing a Cod Army quickly reduced to bewildered minnows.
Had you polled the 21,000-odd Wednesday fans present pre-match as to who they’d want to open the scoring, you’d fancy a great many of them would have said Gregory.
And that hypothetical lot got their wish, an incisive break allowing the increasingly impressive Dennis Adeniran to break free and shoot only for Fleetwood keeper Alex Cairns to palm it into the number nine’s path. That he hit the post with a header five minutes later was the only Owls disappointment in a rampant first half-hour.
Fleetwood clawed a foot back into proceedings from there, though they rarely troubled Bailey Peacock-Farrell in the Owls goal. The Wednesday back five that had been so imperious in competitive football this season was disrupted when the hobbling Sam Hutchinson was replaced by Chey Dunkley at half-time.
Though there were moments; Bannan’s needle-eyed through-ball to find Gregory after an hour was a thing of beauty and Kamberi’s cross for the stretching Paterson had shades of Gazza’s Euro 96 near-miss, the second half was slower in comparison.
The visitors again stepped into it between the boxes and with a Sheffield shower a nagging sense of nervousness was draped over Hillsborough as the decisive second goal remained absent.
It needn’t. The Owls saw the game out expertly and the backline held firm – not including extra time that’s now 372 minutes of competitive football without conceding – in what after three matches is their best start to a league campaign since 2012.
The rebuild – for that is what this is – continues at Rotherham United on Saturday.
Sheffield Wednesday: Peacock-Farrell; Hunt, Iorfa, Hutchinson (Dunkley, 46’), Palmer; Byers (Paterson, 72’), Bannan, Adeniran; Adeniran, Johnson, Gregory (Kamberi, 72’)
Subs unused: Wildsmith, Brown, Dele-Bashiru, Luongo
Fleetwood Town: Cairns; Hill (Morris, 46’), Clarke, Holgate; Halliday, Rossiter, Biggins, Andrew; Camps (Edmondson, 84’), Morton (Pilkington, 59’), Garner
Subs unused: Crellin, Matete, Batty, Clark