How Sheffield Wednesday Under-18s took a major step towards winning the league title
Sheffield Wednesday's Under-18s took a giant step towards winning the Professional Development League North title with a 2-0 victory over Coventry City.
Strikes either side of half-time from Liam Shaw and Elliott Vasalo helped Andy Holdsworth's seal a comfortable win in their penultimate fixture of the regular league season.
The result means the Owls need just a point from their game in hand away to arch rivals Sheffield United on Saturday (1.00pm KO) to leapfrog Leeds United into top spot and secure the PDL2 crown.
Holdsworth told The Star: "We didn't play to the standards that we have set for the majority of the season.
"But we have potentially got four games left if everything goes according to plan.
"They have been excellent all season and we have said to them 'don't disappoint and fall short when it comes to the business end of the season.'
"They have stuck to the guns and the league is going to go down to the final game."
It did not take Wednesday, beaten by Millwall last weekend, long to find their groove at Middlewood Road.
Eyad Hammoud, Josh Dawodu and captain Isaac Rice tested the reflexes of Tom Billson in the early stages.
Rice, who led by example at the back, then somehow glanced Vasalo's inviting corner wide from close range as the Owls piled on the pressure.
Sign up to our Sheffield Wednesday newsletter
Their persistence paid off in the 23rd minute when Shaw drilled an unstoppable left foot shot out of Billson's reach from just outside the penalty area following superb approach play.
The visitors struggled to get a foothold as Shaw, Liam Waldock and Conor Grant bossed the midfield battle.
And it was no surprise when Vasalo doubled the Owls' advantage in the 58th minute. The forward turned the ball in at the back post after a great counter attack involving Grant and Charles Hagan.
Vasalo, a lively figure throughout, could have made it 3-0 after beating the offside trap and latching onto Shaw's exquisite defence-splitting pass but Billson raced off his line to make a fine block.
It took Coventry until the 71st minute to create a meaningful chance, Will Bapaga's low strike was comfortably kept out by Josh Render.
Shaw continued to drive Wednesday on and he was denied by Billson following a neat cut back by Dawodu.
Having claimed a seventh win from their last nine outings, the Owls will go into the United clash at Shirecliffe full of confidence.
“They are exciting kids and they have been a pleasure to coach all year round,” added Holdsworth.
Owls: Render; Dawodu, Reaney, Rice, Ellery; Waldock; Hagan (Brandy 87), Shaw (Kenyon 90), Grant, Vasalo; Hammoud (Farmer 77). Unused substitutes: Thompson, Jackson.