Magic Mike - Sheffield Wednesday end 2022 on a high after Michael Smith rocket v Port Vale

A Michael Smith double saw Sheffield Wednesday extend their unbeaten run to 12 games, and are now level on points with second-placed Ipswich Town.
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After the sluggish displays of late, a bright Wednesday start in their final home game of 2022 was hugely welcomed by the Owls faithful on Thursday night.

Darren Moore’s side came right out of the blocks and cause plenty of early problems for the Vale, with both Liam Palmer and Reece James playing quite high lines despite being centre backs in this evening’s formation.

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Barry Bannan fired over early doors after a lovely dink over his marker, and a second chance followed midway through the half as Callum Paterson’s strong drive was well blocked as it headed goalwards.

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Major concerns for Sheffield Wednesday as Barry Bannan limps down the Hillsborou...

Wednesday’s skipper wouldn’t have much longer on the field, however, and had to be taken off after 25 minutes – looking in plenty of discomfort.

Not to be deterred, though, the Owls pressed on, and were rewarded after half an hour as Smith drilled home a penalty after handball was given against the hosts.

The Valiants had a couple of half chances through Ellis Harrison and James Wilson, but Cameron Dawson was barely tested as things ran through to the break.

Michael Smith bagged a brace as Sheffield Wednesday took on Port Vale. (Harriet Massey SWFC)Michael Smith bagged a brace as Sheffield Wednesday took on Port Vale. (Harriet Massey SWFC)
Michael Smith bagged a brace as Sheffield Wednesday took on Port Vale. (Harriet Massey SWFC)
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In the second half, though, it was the visitors asking all the questions – thankfully Mark McGuinness and his other defenders had all the answers.

Moore’s side needed to regain control, but as pressure increased, Smith found the perfect antidote, cutting onto his right before firing a beautiful strike past the outreaching arms of Jack Stevens.

George Byers was looking more like his imperious best, timing tackles perfectly to break up play, and Dennis Adeniran made his long-awaited return as the clock ran down.

The Owls stood firm. Another three points, another clean sheet, and that’s 97 points this calendar year. 2-0.

Sheffield Wednesday paid tribute to Pelé before their game against Port Vale. (Harriet Massey SWFC)Sheffield Wednesday paid tribute to Pelé before their game against Port Vale. (Harriet Massey SWFC)
Sheffield Wednesday paid tribute to Pelé before their game against Port Vale. (Harriet Massey SWFC)

In memory of…

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Before things got underway there was a moment where both sets of fans, including the impressive 3,000+ travelling from Burslem, came together to remember one of football’s greatest ever players.

News filtered around in the half hour prior to kick off that the great Pelé had passed away at the age of 82, and the club worked quickly to make sure that the Brazilian legend – who twice graced the field at Hillsborough – was honoured with a minute’s silence in S6.

Bannan blow

We won’t know the full extent of it for at least a couple of days, but it certainly didn’t look good for the Owls skipper as he limped off the field inside the opening half hour after receiving some treatment on the pitch.

It’s the second time this month he’s been unable to finish a game due to injury, and supporters are understandably concerned about this one after he hobbled straight down the tunnel.

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He did come out for the second half though, and was watching on from the bench.

Defensive excellence

There were good performances all over the pitch, but special credit has to go to Palmer, McGuinness and James in the heart of the defence, with all three playing a blinder to make sure the opponents remained at arm’s length all game.

The trio were compact when they had to be, but drove forward and timed things so well when pressured. 13 clean sheets for the season now.