Guile and grit at heart of Owls’ impressive victory - Aston Villa 1 Sheffield Wednesday 2

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Slick, high-tempo football in one half. True Yorkshire grit in the other.

Few pundits gave the Owls a chance of pulling off an upset at Villa Park.

After all, Villa entered Saturday’s contest on the back of six victories from their previous eight outings and having not lost on home soil all season. It looked a formidable challenge.

But Wednesday tore up the form book to end a run of three straight away defeats and move back into the top half of the Championship heading into the two-week international break.

The hosts never truly recovered from going behind to Adam Reach’s left foot screamer after just 18 seconds.

With and without the ball, Wednesday excelled in the first half and Jordan Rhodes deservedly doubled their advantage in the 23rd minute after a lovely one-two between Barry Bannan and Gary Hooper.

GOAL......Jordan Rhodes second Owls goal....Pic Steve Ellis

GOAL......Jordan Rhodes second Owls goal....Pic Steve Ellis

Injuries to John Terry and Robert Snodgrass hit Villa hard but the Owls outplayed them and could have scored more.

The second half was a different story. Villa markedly improved and pushed Wednesday back. The visitors were forced to dig in and soak up an awful lot of pressure.

With 10 minutes remaining, substitute Liam Palmer should have added a third to ease their nerves but he fired wide on the stretch after a neat pull back by Reach.

Terry’s stand-in Chris Samba was deployed as an emergency striker in the latter stages as Villa piled forward in numbers. The giant defender grabbed a consolation deep into added on time, tapping in Callum O’Hare’s low centre.

GOAL.....Adam Reach first goal....Pic Steve Ellis

GOAL.....Adam Reach first goal....Pic Steve Ellis

Keiren Westwood was left fuming over the Owls’ late consolation. He had barely anything to do all afternoon but will have to wait a little longer to keep a third clean sheet. It was virtually the only blot on Wednesday’s copybook.

Glenn Loovens and Tom Lees shone at the back, heading and clearing everything away. Barry Bannan ran the show in the centre but the pick of the bunch in an impressive team display was Jacob Butterfield. The Derby County loanee covered so much ground. He buzzed around and made the Owls tick.

REACH CRACKER

In truth, Wednesday never looked back after Reach’s sublime opener. An off-balance Terry’s clearing header fell to Ross Wallace and the winger touched the ball into the path of Reach, who unleashed a stunning, dipping left-footed swerving shot from 30 yards which flew past the helpless Sam Johnstone into the top corner of the net.

Thumbs up on the victory against his old club Owls Barry Bannan....Pic Steve Ellis

Thumbs up on the victory against his old club Owls Barry Bannan....Pic Steve Ellis

It was a goal of the season contender and underlined Reach’s growing confidence. It is hard to imagine him trying that a couple of weeks ago. Long may his purple patch in front of goal continue.

Fresh from scoring his third goal in eight days, Reach admitted: “I’ve scored none better and none quicker either!

“When the ball dropped it all happened so quick and there wasn’t anything else in my mind.”

His spectacular finish gave the Owls a platform to build on.

Moments after ex-England and Chelsea star Terry limped off, Rhodes also netted for the second match running. He rifled home after a delightful, free-flowing move involving Bannan and Hooper. The scoreline did not flatter them in the least. Wednesday made a good side in Villa look distinctly ordinary.

“Before we came out, we said how important it was to start well and to score early if we could,” said Reach.

Adam Reach beats Villas James Chester....Pic Steve Ellis

Adam Reach beats Villas James Chester....Pic Steve Ellis

“Nobody thought it would be that early but it put us in a good way for the rest of the game.

“We were on the front foot and could dictate how we wanted to play.”

VILLA RESPONSE

After dominating the opening 45 minutes, the Owls had to roll up their sleeves and battle in the second period. Their backline, which has been leaky, was put under the microscope. Villa finished proceedings with a three-pronged attack and eventually punished one late lapse in concentration.

As Carvalhal acknowledged post-match, though, his Wednesday side were “very good” collectively as a defensive unit. They restricted Villa’s star-studded team packed full of big names and expensive signings to few sights at goal. Steven Fletcher played an important role at both ends of the pitch after coming on as a substitute.

Villa manager Steve Bruce said: “We gave ourselves a mountain to climb, going 2-0 down inside 20 minutes.

“You have to say, they were two wonderful goals.

“They were both different - one from 30 yards which is smashed into the top corner, and the other a good move by them.

“It left us with an uphill battle all game. It was a bad afternoon. A tough day.”

CONSISTENCY KEY TO PROMOTION

Wednesday showed their character and battling qualities against Villa. To be successful at this level, teams have to be capable of going to difficult places and grinding out positive results. Too often, this season, the Owls have not won enough second balls or individual battles to earn the right to play their football away from home.

But they looked sharper and hungrier than Villa. Partnerships are developing in the team and this victory should install a sense of self belief and further increase the players confidence levels.

Morgan Fox is getting better with every match he plays, Bannan continues to consistently perform at a high level, Reach, by his own admission, is in the best form of his career, and Rhodes has scored in successive matches for the first time since April 2016.

The signs are encouraging that the Owls are finally getting their act together. The feel-good factor is returning and Wednesday are well-placed to kick on over the coming months.

Owls Jacob Butterfield gets away from Villa's Keinan Davis.....Pic Steve Ellis

Owls Jacob Butterfield gets away from Villa's Keinan Davis.....Pic Steve Ellis

In the thick of the action Owls Jacob Butterfield.....Pic Steve Ellis

In the thick of the action Owls Jacob Butterfield.....Pic Steve Ellis