Sheffield Wednesday vs Plymouth Argyle - Nathaniel Mendez-Laing starts redemption mission as Owls turn it on
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Concerns had grown as to the Owls’ aptitude for the battle ahead. Some remain. But in scoring four against a side that had appeared to have the spell on them, they chalked off a doubt or two to claw back momentum in their mission.
It was an early half-chance for Jack Hunt that seemed to kick Wednesday – and the Wednesday crowd – into gear.
Soon afterwards Lee Gregory nodded Liam Palmer’s cross goalwards to force a good reflex save from Michael Cooper in the Pilgrims goal.
And then came Sylla Sow, back in the starting line-up for the first time in 126 days and on-hand at the 19-minute mark to poke home Nathaniel Mendez-Laing’s cross. The Owls dominant, Hillsborough bouncing.
The central topic of conversation over the past week or so had been Theo Corbeanu’s switch to MK Dons. But on the left, Mendez-Laing was a constant menace. Theo who?
The former Cardiff man looked fit, snarling and in the mood for redemption after a difficult year-and-a-bit, and when he coolly finished an incisive Wednesday attack on 40 minutes, it handed Moore’s men a 2-0 lead that flattered them not one jot.
While Mendez-Laing and Massimo Luongo took the first-half plaudits – at times the Aussie played like a big brother drafted into a youngster’s park kickabout such was his dominance in midfield – much of Wednesday’s attacking swagger came as a result of Lee Gregory’s efforts leading the line.
Having earlier hit the post, Gregory looked back to his old self after a grey post-Christmas period. Barry Bannan too was tidy. Sam Hutchinson assured both in defence and in possession. It is these individual performances from key players that Wednesday’s road back to the playoff places will need to be built on.
So to the second half, then. And to Adam Rendell’s stunning free-kick, a sucker punch moment that arrived as many were still arriving back to their seats. But Wednesday rode the pressure, taking back control of the ball, slowing the game down as if to dock leaf the sting out of any Plymouth resurgence.
With Mendez-Laing and Hunt as constant outlets they played it cool, and though the lively crowd had to wait for a third, it duly came with 10 minutes remaining from a most passionate of course; Sam Hutchinson nodding home Hunt’s pinpoint cross.
Plymouth fired back soon afterwards through a Jephcott that was more confusing than anything else and even then Wednesday cut through any notion of one-goal-lead pressure through Josh Windass, on for Sow late on.
Through all the nervous misery of the last week or three, Wednesday needed to lay on a performance for their wavering supporters.
By golly they did that. More please.
Sheffield Wednesday: Peacock-Farrell; Palmer, Hutchinson Johnson; Hunt, Dele-Bashiru, Luongo, Bannan, Mendez-Laing; Gregory (Paterson, 90’), Sow (Windass, 80’)
Subs unused: Wildsmith, Brennan, Adeniran, Byers, Berahino
Plymouth Argyle: Cooper; Bolton, Scarr, Gillesphey; Edwards, Mayor (Broom, 60’), Randell, Houghton (Law, 82’), Grant, Garrick, Ennis (Jephcott, 70’)
Subs unused: Wilson, Lewis, Burton, Crichlow