Match report: Wigan Athletic 0 Sheffield Wednesday 1 - Rhodes makes mark as Owls edge out strugglers

Ross Wallace celebrates netting the only goal of the game for the Owls
Ross Wallace celebrates netting the only goal of the game for the Owls
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He failed to mark his debut with a goal - but Jordan Rhodes made an instant impact as Wednesday boosted their promotion hopes with a hard-fought victory over relegation-haunted Wigan Athletic.

The Scotland international, signed on transfer deadline day from Middlesbrough, was the architect of the only goal, teeing up in-form wide man Ross Wallace in the 43rd minute for the decisive strike.

Debutant Jordan Rhodes produced an excellent flick-on to set up Ross Wallace's decisive goal for Wednesday. Pictures: Steve Ellis

Debutant Jordan Rhodes produced an excellent flick-on to set up Ross Wallace's decisive goal for Wednesday. Pictures: Steve Ellis

It was Wallace’s third goal in his last four matches, having fired blanks in his previous 25 appearances, as Carlos Carvalhal’s charges held on for three vital points.

It was a dogged, professional away performance and the win lifted the Owls back into the play-off positions.

Opportunities to shine have been at a premium for Rhodes this season but he was plunged straight into action in Lancashire. The striker was one of four changes, replacing Sam Winnall in attack.

Injuries to key players have hampered Wednesday in recent weeks and their back four was much-changed at a rain-lashed DW Stadium. Tom Lees sat out the Roses clash after picking up a knock in the draw at Bristol City, handing Vincent Sasso only his second start of the season.

STAR MAN: Barry Bannan

STAR MAN: Barry Bannan

Given the busy fixture schedule, it was no surprise Carvalhal rotated his full-backs, bringing in Jack Hunt and Daniel Pudil for Liam Palmer and Morgan Fox respectively.

It was a cagey affair early on. Both sides lacked cohesion and quality in the final third and there plenty of wayward passes.

Wigan, who named an unchanged starting line-up for the third match running despite bringing in eight new faces on transfer deadline day, looked marginally more threatening and it took an inch perfect block from Glenn Loovens to stop Will Grigg from testing the reflexes of Keiren Westwood.

There were areas of the playing surface which were cut up and not conducive to free-flowing passing football as both sides gave possession away far too cheaply. Several players lost their footing on the greasy turf.

David Jones fells Wigan's Michael Jacobs. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

David Jones fells Wigan's Michael Jacobs. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

It was not a classic by any means and the Latics registered the first shot on target in the 30th minute when midfielder Sam Morsy let fly from 30 yards but Westwood was equal to the former Barnsley loanee’s effort.

It was all rather low-key and flat and you wondered where a moment of inspiration or genuine quality would come from.

But then Wednesday, roared on by 2,500 plus supporters, enjoyed a mini spell of pressure, forcing four corners in quick succession.

Rugged centre-back Jake Buxton cleared Pudil’s dangerous delivery before Adam Reach’s deflected right foot shot went inches off target.

And the Owls’ pressure paid off two minutes before the interval and new arrival Rhodes was inevitably involved. He deftly flicked on Sasso’s long punt upfield into the path of Wallace, who scooped the ball over Jakob Haugaard with the aid of a deflection off Buxton.

It was a scrappy goal in keeping with a scrappy match but they all count.

The service, at times, left a lot to be desired into Rhodes and Fernando Forestieri but the duo worked tirelessly to make life difficult for the hosts backline.

Wigan, the lowest scorers in the Championship, made their intentions clear from the off after the re-start and Westwood dived bravely to block Morsy’s attempt from an acute angle. Westwood was visibly hurt by Morsy’s outstretched boot but the Owls goalkeeper shrugged off the knock after receiving treatment from the medical staff.

Carvalhal felt fresh legs were required before the hour mark and threw on Latics old boy Callum McManaman, who was given a good reception by the home faithful.

Hunt collected the first yellow card of the contest after he unceremoniously brought down Michael Jacobs following a mistake by Reach.

Wigan continued to cause problems and giant defender Dan Burn rose highest to meet Max Power’s cross but could only steer his header straight at Westwood.

In 2017, the Owls have often been accused of creating few chances in front of goal but McManaman showed lovely footwork to create room for himself on the left flank midway through the second half before teeing up Reach, who fired over when well-placed.

Moments later, Wigan thought they had equalised courtesy of Callum Connolly after he raced on to Power’s fine pass and calmly rounded Westwood before slotting home but the full-back’s celebrations were cut short by the off-side flag. It was a tight call which went Wednesday’s way.

You could not fault the Latics spirit and application and James Weir wasted a great chance to get on the scoresheet. The substitute, making his debut, nodded over Jacob’s superb cross as Warren Joyce’s men piled on the pressure.

Wigan poured forward in numbers in the dying minutes and Jacobs’ low shot flashed across the face of goal to leave them frustrated.

It was ugly but the Owls dug deep to seal a fourth victory on the bounce against the Latics, who remain third-from-bottom.

Wigan: Haugaard; Connolly, Buxton, Burn, Warnock; MacDonald, Perkins (Weir 67), Power, Morsy, Jacobs; Grigg (Bogle 67). Substitutes: Gilks, Kellett, Tunnicliffe, Morgan, Hanson.

Owls: Westwood; Hunt, Loovens, Sasso, Pudil (Semedo 90); Wallace (McManaman 56), Jones, Bannan, Reach; Forestieri (Abdi 81), Rhodes. Substitutes: Wildsmith, Winnall, Palmer, Nuhiu.

Referee: Stephen Martin (Staffordshire)

Attendance: 13,037 (2,548)

Star man: Barry Bannan