Ipswich Town 0 Sheffield Wednesday 1: Lucas Joao’s goal, the defence and a late play-off charge - Four talking points after Steve Bruce’s first match in charge
Substitute Lucas Joao struck late to ensure Steve Bruce's reign in charge of Sheffield Wednesday kicked off with a hard-fought 1-0 win over rock-bottom Ipswich Town.
Owls writer Dom Howson picks out four talking points from the Championship encounter at Portman Road.
The approach play for Joao's 90th minute strike was outstanding. Michael Hector, a tower of strength at the back, spread the ball out wide to Adam Reach. Versatile midfielder Reach showed a good turn of pace to go past Myles Kenlock on the right flank and cut the ball back to Joao, who lashed home from close range. "It was a bit of quality," said Bruce. "To be fair to Reachy, it was not one of his better days but he stuck at it and that was a wonderful, wonderful piece of skill from him at the end. He was there to smash it in."
Six clean sheets in the 10 matches since Jos Luhukay's departure underlines the big improvements the Owls have made at the back. Hector, preferred to youngster Jordan Thorniley, has formed a strong centre-half pairing with captain Tom Lees while Liam Palmer and Morgan Fox have barely put a foot wrong in the full-back positions. Keiren Westwood was also a calm, steadying influence in between the sticks on his 150th outing. Continuity in selection has been key to an upturn in their fortunes.
The play-offs are not out of the question yet
Wednesday climbed up to 16th after recording their first league double over Ipswich since the 2006-07 campaign. The gap between the Owls and the top-six is nine points with 17 fixtures remaining. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that Wednesday could still mount a late play-off challenge but it is going to take a superb sequence of results to bolster their slim promotion hopes. There is little margin for error.
Sharpen up in the final third
“We were comfortable apart from our finishing,” admitted Bruce. The Owls created plenty of chances either side of half-time. They would have been out of sight if Fernando Forestieri (2) Adam Reach and Steven Fletcher had converted their opportunities. Time and time again Wednesday’s attacking players got themselves into good advanced areas only for their finishing to let them down. Out of their 17 shots at goal, just three were on target. The Owls should have worked Ipswich goalkeeper Bartosz Bia?kowski harder.