Sheffield Wednesday’s Under-23s claimed their second piece of silverware of the season in front of a bumper crowd at Hillsborough last night.
Goals either side of half-time from George Hirst (2) and Liam Williams helped the Owls’ development squad beat Yorkshire rivals Hull in the Professional Development League Two Play-Off Final.
Their latest triumph comes less than a month after Wednesday lifted the PDL2 North title.
Under-23s boss Neil Thompson told The Star: “I’m immensely proud of the boys.
“It has been tough for the players. We have not been easy on them. We have had to give them a kick up the backside at times.
“At the end of the day, they’ve come out with two trophies and it fantastic for the players, the staff and the academy.”
Wednesday dominated the opening half an hour and raced into a deserved two-goal lead.
Hirst grabbed his fourth goal in his last two meetings with Hull in the ninth minute, looping a shot over Charlie Andrew after a corner by Jack Stobbs caused mayhem in the penalty area. It was not the cleanest of strikes by Hirst but maintained the England Under-18 international’s impressive form.
The goal machine bagged his 36th of the campaign in the 25th minute, pouncing on slack defending by Hull. He raced to Cameron Dawson’s long punt upfield, shrugged off the attentions of his marker and drilled a low shot past Andrew.
It took a superb clearance off the line by Jordan Thorniley to prevent Greg Luer from reducing the deficit. The striker latched on to Max Clark’s fine throughball and rounded Dawson but Thorniley came to the Owls’ rescue, hacking his attempt to safety.
Four minutes before half-time, Hull pulled one back from the penalty spot after Brandon Fleming had been brought down in the area. It looked a soft decision but Robbie McKenzie made no mistake from 12 yards, although Dawson guessed the right way.
Hull, who overcame Charlton on penalties in the semi-finals last Monday, dominated the early stages of the second half and Elliot Percival had to be alert to cut out Will Annan’s centre.
After soaking up the visitors pressure, the Owls rallied with Penney’s free-kick kept out by Andrew before Preston’s header from close range was deflected behind for a corner.
It was left to Liam Williams, making only his second appearance for the development squad, to restore Wednesday’s two-goal cushion. The centre-back rose highest to nod in Stobbs’ corner.
In an entertaining, enthralling final quarter, Dawson made a series of fine stops to keep Josh Tymon and substitute Jonathan Edwards (2) at bay while Andrew brilliantly repelled Hirst and Betra at the other end.
“We put in a great performance,” said Thompson. “We were thoroughly professional and limited Hull to next to nothing.
“They are a good team and have had a great season.
“We started really brightly and our game plan was good. We got round [Dan] Batty in the middle of the pitch and we stopped them getting out and playing and got two goals up.
“I was disappointed with the penalty against us. We just slacked off a little bit and gave them some encouragement.
“But I thought we controlled the second half and the third goal gave us a cushion. The last 25 minutes seemed quite a long time!
“The lads have been fantastic all season and this caps everything off.
“We just hope the first-team do it now.”
Amen to that!