Sheffield Wednesday 1 Stoke City 0 - Massimo Luongo stars as Garry Monk's side go third after a hard-fought home win

Making Hillsborough a fortress is high on Garry Monk's to-do list.

Tuesday, 22nd October 2019, 5:39 pm
Updated Wednesday, 23rd October 2019, 12:16 am
Massimo Luongo celebrates his first half goal against Stoke

Monk, a seasoned operater at Championship level, has repeatedly stated the importance of the Owls being strong in their own backyard if they are to mount a promotion challenge this season.

So far so good as Monk has yet to suffer a home league defeat since taking over the reins at Wednesday.

Their professional, workmanlike victory over struggling Stoke City means the Owls have taken seven points out of a possible nine at S6 under Monk.

Massimo Luongo's 43rd minute goal ensured Wednesday returned to winning ways and the result nudged them up to third.

Sign up to our Sheffield Wednesday newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

It also sealed their first Hillsborough success over the Potters in two decades.

There is, of course, still a long, long way to go so no one should get carried away, but they are in a good place.

The hosts, without first-choice goalkeeper Keiren Westwood because of an ankle problem suffered in the warm-up had the first sight at goal as Steven Fletcher's firm header from Morgan Fox's inviting cross forced Adam Federici into a routine stop in the fifth minute.

There was little to separate the two sides in the early stages. It was a cagey, stop-start dull affair as both teams coughed up possession at regular intervals.

Stoke entered the contest full of confidence after impressive victories over promotion hopefuls Swansea City and Fulham but were forced into making two personnel changes due to injury inside the opening half an hour.

First Peter Etebo was withdrawn and replaced by ex-Sheffield United midfielder Mark Duffy, who was jeered by the home fans, before defender Cameron Carter-Vickers was carried off after a robust challenge.

Moments before Carter-Vickers left the pitch, Wednesday had a big penalty appeal turned down. Massimo Luongo appeared to be brought down after a good Owls move but referee Andrew Madley signalled play on and Kadeem Harris blazed over from close range.

The incident sparked Wednesday into life and Adam Reach threatened to unlock the Potters stubborn defence in the 31st minute. The £5m man surged forward at pace in a trademark mazy run before seeing his rasping left foot effort parried away by Federici.

It took an important clearance from Fox to stop Tyrese Campbell, the son of former Arsenal and Everton striker Kevin, from turning in Sam Clucas' fine centre from the left as the visitors briefly posed a threat.

Luongo fired the Owls in front on the stroke of half-time following a dreadful defensive error by Carter-Vickers replacement Liam Lindsay. Fletcher flicked on a long ball and Lindsay should have cleared his lines but made a hash of his clearance, allowing Luongo to nip in and race clear before coolly slotting home. It was the Australian international's second goal in as many home matches.

Lindsay could have atoned for his blunder in the dying embers of the first period but he hooked over following a Stoke corner.

Wednesday started on the front foot after the break, with Reach heading wide of the far post after neat approach play by Barry Bannan and Kadeem Harris.But Monk's men suffered an injury blow in the 53rd minute when Luongo was forced off with a knock.

Big Dominic Iorfa then came to the Owls' rescue as he brilliantly charged down Badou Ndiaye's fierce drive. The ball was recycled and Stoke felt they should have had a spot-kick when Wales international Joe Allen went down under a challenge from Bannan but Madley waved played on.

The Potters enjoyed a good spell of pressure as the game finally began to open up and Cameron Dawson, deputising for Westwood in between the sticks, produced a stunning save to turn away Lee Gregory's downward header. It was an outstanding stop from Dawson but Gregory should have buried the chance.

Harris came close to doubling the Owls' advantage in the 64th minute only to see his right foot piledriver acrobatically tipped over by Federici.

The centre-back pairing of Iorfa and Julian Börner has flourished in recent weeks. Iorfa looks a player brimming with confidence, typified by his immaculate tackle to dispossess Stoke substitute Scott Hogan.

There were big cheers from the crowd when Fernando Forestieri was introduced in the closing stages for his first appearance since August. The little maestro played his part in helping the Owls see the game out as Stoke finished with nine men after Edwards came off.

Question marks still exist over Wednesday's attacking prowess after this unconvincing display.

Yet the signs of growth are certainly there and the Owls' record on their own turf has been good this calendar year and should stand them in good stead for the future. Only two sides Aston Villa and QPR – twice – have triumphed at Hillsborough.

Solid foundations have been laid and must be maintained if Wednesday are to last the course.

Owls: Dawson; Palmer, Iorfa, Börner, Fox; Hutchinson; Reach, Bannan, Luongo (Lee 54), Harris (Forestieri 74); Fletcher (Nuhiu 81). Substitutes: Jones, Pelupessy, Winnall, Odubajo.

Stoke: Federici; Edwards, Carter-Vickers (Lindsay 27), Batth, Ward; Ndiaye, Etebo (Duffy 21), Allen, Clucas; Gregory, Campbell (Hoigan 69). Substitutes: Butland, McClean, Vokes, Ince.

Attendance: 22,460.

Referee: Andrew Madley (West Yorkshire)