SHEFFIELD Wednesday last night came from behind to win a War of the Roses battle and avoid a third successive Cup knockout at the hands of a Lancashire outfit.
Beaten by Blackburn and Blackpool in the tournaments last season, they gave Oldham a two goal-start yet still stormed into the Capital One Cup second round thanks to a powerful second-half performance. Wednesday were one down inside seven minutes, two behind after 26, and missed a penalty, and at half time it looked as if they could be on their way out.
But three goals in a 17 minute second-half spell changed the game and the Owls took command, their marksmen Jermaine Johnson, sub Chris O’Grady, who hit two, and finally Michail Antonio in the closing stages.
Dave Jones picked what had appeared to be his strongest possible side. Gary Madine returned after missing the last few friendlies with a bruised foot, while Antonio made his first start since his transfer. Chris Kirkland, Anthony Gardner, Nejc Pecnik and Chris Maguire made their competitive debuts but there was no place for former Oldham full back Kieran Lee. Pecnik, switched to central midfield to replace the injured Chris Lines, was not far away in the fourth minute with a dipping free kick from 40 yards.
But Oldham’s two new signings were first to make a real mark as the home side took a seventh-minute lead. Former Scunthorpe right back Cliff Byrne instigated the move and on-loan Blackburn and ex-Sheffield United striker Jordan Slew shot into the bottom corner, unchallenged as he met a right-wing cross from midfield man James Wesolowski. In the 26th minute when once again the Owls were caught out. Antonio was challenged by Tarkowski and felt he should have had a foul. But play went on and winger Lee Croft crossed for centre back Jean-Yves M’Voto to head home.
There was another blow for Wednesday when straight away Madine went off, with Chris O’Grady coming on.
The Owls did not have a clear-cut chance until Maguire, put through by a flick from O’Grady, shot just past a post from 18 yards.
Maguire lasted only a couple more minutes before going off. Giles Coke went on as a central midfield man, and Pecnik pushed up. But Pecnik made a real mess of it when the Owls were handed a chance to get back in the game, in the 44th minute, with a penalty given for a clumsy barge in the back on Antonio by Croft. The Slovenian struck his spot kick miles high and wide to the right of keeper Alex Cisak.
But Croft made Kirkland work in the 49th minute when he met a left-wing cross at the far post, the keeper making an excellent block. At last the 1,200-plus away fans behind Cisak’s goal had something to cheer when Jermaine Johnson let fly from 19 yards in the 53rd minute and the ball sped low into the net. Then Kirkland pulled off a superb stop six minutes later from a free volley by Wesolowski.
But in the 61st minute it was 2-2. Miguel Llera curled in a peach of a free kick from the right with his left foot and O’Grady directed a header into the far bottom corner. Wednesday kept pressing and scored a terrific third goal in the 70th minute. Pecnik cleverly made space for a cross from the right and drilled it hard to the near post; O’Grady controlled it brilliantly, swivelled and slammed home a low shot. The Owls could have gone further ahead: Antonio sped clear and was denied by a good save; the ball spun high into the air and dropped to Jermaine Johnson, who could only volley off target.
The fourth goal came in the 87th minute, and it was all Antonio’s: He cut in from the left and from around 14 yards buried a shot into the far bottom corner.
In the end the Owls were worthy winner and will head into the League opener at Derby County on Saturday in good heart.