Barry Bannan sparkles as Sheffield Wednesday see off Bristol City to go third in the Championship

It was fitting the Owls’ standout performer and match-winner was the last man to leave the hallowed Hillsborough turf.

Sunday, 22nd December 2019, 11:14 am
Updated Sunday, 22nd December 2019, 5:12 pm
Owls midfielder Barry Bannan celebrates after his late penalty in the win over Bristol City

Midfield playmaker Barry Bannan claimed the man-of-the-match award against Bristol City after a virtuoso performance in the centre in front of the Sky cameras.

The popular Scot was given a standing ovation by Wednesdayites before heading down the tunnel towards the home dressing room.

His controversial 85th minute penalty was enough to send the Owls up to third at the halfway mark in the Championship season.

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Bannan coolly sent goalkeeper Daniel Bentley the wrong way from 12 yards after Tommy Rowe was penalised for bringing down Atdhe Nuhiu to give Wednesday an early Christmas present.

It is the third time in the last four years Bannan has scored against Bristol.

“We know there's a long way to go in the season but it’s always good to win games like this," said Bannan.

This televised noon encounter was anything but a Christmas cracker.

Illness robbed Wednesday of their 12-goal top-scorer Steven Fletcher, giving Nuhiu an opportunity to shine.

Yet the hosts gave Nuhiu and his strike partner Jordan Rhodes little to feed off early on.

There was a big let off for the hosts inside the opening 15 seconds when Josh Brownhill neatly teed up Callum O'Dowda but the attacking midfielder, a transfer target for the Owls in the August transfer window, dragged his shot wide when well-placed.

It took Wednesday until the 24th minute to create an opportunity at a subdued S6.

Liam Palmer found himself completely unmarked at the back post from Bannan's corner but saw his right foot volley brilliantly blocked on the line and hacked behind for another set play by Korey Smith.

Bannan always tried to make things happen for the Owls and he played a delightful ball in behind City’s defence to pick out Adam Reach, who fired into the side-netting under pressure from Daniel Bentley.

Even a defensive reshuffle after Morgan Fox was forced off with concussion on the half hour mark could not derail Wednesday's momentum as Kadeem Harris and Palmer were denied in quick succession by Bentley.

But there was a lack of intensity and urgency from both sides in a scrappy, turgid first half.

The onus was on the Owls as the home team to be on the front foot and take the game to the Robins.

Last time out against Nottingham Forest, Monk's side were ruthlessly efficient in the final third but they could not replicate that level of performance at home to City.

Despite creating a number of opportunities in the second period (Reach, Harris, Nuhiu and Bannan went close), Wednesday lacked a cutting edge in front of goal.

Rhodes, the first half hat-trick hero in Nottingham, was kept largely quiet by the Robins five-man defence, although he had two decent penalty appeals rejected after the restart.

But City threatened sporadically on the counter attack to break the Owls’ well-organised defence, with former Wednesday full-back Jack Hunt seeing his header nodded off the line by Liam Palmer.

It looked like it would be one of those days for the Owls until referee Tony Harrington pointed to the spot after Rowe tangled with Nuhiu.

Bentley was booked for delaying the spot-kick but Bannan held his nerve to ensure Wednesday picked up maximum points in their final fixture before Christmas.

Bannan added: “I am glad we delivered the points.

“On behalf of the rest of the squad, merry Christmas and a happy New Year.”

Wednesday return to action on Boxing Day when they travel to second-from-bottom Stoke City.

Monk is keeping his fingers crossed that Steven Fletcher will be fit to face the Potters.

The twelve-goal forward missed the Robins clash due to illness.