Sheffield Wednesday: Gary Hooper starts for under-23s in comfortable 5-1 victory over Crystal Palace
Gary Hooper’s return to action for Sheffield Wednesday has been long-awaited by fans, his team mates and his managers in equal measure.
And after recording 45 minutes of match action for Neil Thompson’s under-23s side in their 5-1 win over Crystal Palace at Hillsborough, his recovery to full fitness looks to be one step closer.
In a first game since September, the former Celtic man played his part in the Owls’ opening goal to end a run of back-to-back defeats for the 23s side.
Hooper started the match up top with Liam Shaw in support and got stuck in in a physical battle against the Palace back line, particularly as the target man from Joe Wildsmith’s goal kicks.
The Wednesday forward will no doubt be frustrated at a missed opportunity to score on his return as he came close inside the opening 15 minutes – although the home side did eventually benefit through a placed Alex Hunt finish.
Shaw latched on to a clumsy ball in the Palace area before playing it through to Hooper, who was undone by his first touch and then unable to pull the trigger in a tangle of legs as the ball bobbled out to Hunt who made it 1-0.
The visitors were level before the break as Kian Flanagan fired one past Wildsmith, but Hooper’s involvement was the real plus point of the first 45 as he dropped deep to receive the ball and link up with Grant and Shaw.
Fellow senior players Daniel Pudil, Ash Baker and Wildsmith also featured as Omar Damba replaced Hooper after the break.
In a clinical second period, Wednesday took the lead through the first of two goals from Shaw before Damba and Conor Grant also got on the score sheet in a five star display from the young Owls.
Neil Thompson’s team’s next test in the Professional Development League comes away at Barnsley on Wednesday.