Sam Winnall was the star of the show as Sheffield Wednesday's Under-23s defeated Crewe Alexandra 1-0 at Hillsborough today.
The striker, making his comeback following a long injury lay-off, netted in the 28th minute to ensure Neil Thompson's side halted a three-match winless streak.
Wednesday fielded a strong side, featuring Winnall, Joe Wildsmith, Sam Hutchinson and Morgan Fox, against Crewe. The Star's Owls writer Dom Howson assesses the quartet's performances.
The goalkeeper, who has made two appearances for the Owls this season, was called into action on three occasions in the first half. He was alert to turn behind Connor Heath's fierce right volley from long range but his best stop was arguably to palm away Joshua Lundstram's fierce shot. Wildsmith also kept Malachi Linton at bay as Crewe looked dangerous on the counter attack.
His distribution let him down from time to time and he flapped at a corner after the break but Wildsmith issued a timely reminder to Wednesday boss Jos Luhukay that he is waiting in the wings should Cameron Dawson's form dip at any stage.
Hutchinson, playing for the first time since the Owls’ Carabao Cup defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers in late August, was deployed at centre-half. He was strong in the air, commanding on the floor and switched play well on a number of occasions. It was a good 60 minute workout for the 29-year-old as he bids to force his way back into Luhukay's first-team plans.
Thompson said: “Sam and Foxy need the minutes. Foxy has had a little bit of an injury and come back. All the senior players showed a great attitude throughout.”
The left-back produced a steady, confident performance. Fox, fit-again following an ankle problem, looked assured in possession and was solid defensively in Wednesday's 4-3-3 formation. The former Charlton defender never shirked responsibility and tried to get forward and join in with the attack at every available opportunity.
The centre-forward capped his comeback from injury with a goal. Winnall's movement in the box was superb as he swept in Jack Stobb's fine delivery from the right flank in the 28th minute. Winnall led the line intelligently, setting up an earlier chance for Stobbs with an exquisite pass with the outside of his right foot.
Winnall looked sharp on his return and was desperately unlucky not to score a second on the stroke of half-time, with David Richards pushing his rasping left foot drive from the edge of the area on to the post.
Winnall was a real livewire and the goal will have done him a power of good.
Thompson said: “Sam has been training in the last couple of weeks and he has been chomping at the bit to get going.
“The plan was for him to play 45 minutes and he got himself a really good goal.
“I’m pleased for Sam. It is never nice when someone gets a long-term injury. Sam has done his work and got back on the pitch.