Owls FT: Watford 0 Sheffield Wednesday 1

Connor Wickham celebrates his free kick goal
Connor Wickham celebrates his free kick goal
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Connor Wickham’s fantastic free kick brought Sheffield Wednesday victory at Watford.

Wednesday’s game plan was obviously to combat Watford’s 4-5-1 formation by having enough bodies in midfield.

Watford v Owls

Watford v Owls

Stuart Gray would also look to Helan and Maghoma for pace on the break down the left and right flanks respectively to support Wickham, who was the only central striker .

But the Hornets should have profited from their own break in the fourth minute.

Battochio slit the Owls open with a through ball and sent Anya dashing to the byline but the winger failed to pick anyone out with his low cross.

A bigger let-off came four minutes later: from the second of two quick corners, left back Cassetti powered a free header over the top from six yards.

Jacques Maghoma

Jacques Maghoma

Then Wednesday stitched together some constructive stuff, and Helan forced an unproductive corner. They stopped the home side from building any pressure in the early stages,.

Watford, however, threatened with another swift raid. Anya received the ball on the D and whipped a right-foot shot. It was a half-chance, and Martinez watched the ball curl past his left-hand angle.

When the Owls got their own clear sight of goal for the first time, they made it count, in the 24th minute. From a free kick just outside the box and to the left of goal, WICKHAM blasted a right-foot missile past Bond for his fifth goal in seven games.

Straightaway Wednesday had some defending to do.

But on the break they almost made it 2-0, in the 31st minute. Semedo knocked the ball up the line to Wickham, he helped it on and Maghoma briefly seemed to be clean away down the middle. But he was halted by what must have been either a great tackle, by Nosworthy, or a foul that seemed to be just inside the box.

It was impossible to pass safe judgement from the opposite end of the ground.

Wednesday were making a pretty good job of nullyfing the Hornets, and their following of almost 2,000 was the only section of the crowd making any noise. No doubt home supporters were beginning to wonder whether this would be a fifth successive defeat at the ground.

They erupted in the 40th minute when a lovely ball from centre forward Deeney angled through the Owls defence and Anya put the ball in the net from close range after making good ground.. But the offside flag was up.

In the last minute of normal time, Martinez made a double intervention. He beat away a fierce strike by Murray, and was on the ground when he managed he push the ball away from Anya as the winger followed up.

Watford right back Faraoni slid into a routine tackle on Helan in the first minute of the half and lay on the ground, crying out in pain. He soon hobbled off and was replaced by Fabbrini.

Wednesday might hve expected Watford to come straight at them after the restart but it did not really happen.

The Owls were solid enough to prevent the Hornets from creating a fast tempo, and kept them largely at arm’s length, pulling men behind the ball.

Like Wednesday last week, Watford were not really finding any penetration in the final third, and came up against some sound defending.

The Owls also survived one intense scramble in their goalmouth, with a touch of fortune.

They were not able to get going forward themselves very often but Reda Johnson and Helan both played teasing balls across the box.

An inswinging free kick by McPhail was too close to the keeper. Olofinjana came on for McPhail in the 75th minute, no doubt as fresh legs to help the team keep this workmanlike effort.

By this time Gianfranco Zola had already brought on Forestieri, in the hope perhaps that he could repeat his match-winning exploits against the Owls in the 2-1 result here last season. But he put an opportunity wide.

Running out of time , Zola took off a centre half, Hall, in the 81st minute, left three at ther back, sometimes two, and threw men forward.

Wednesday had to negotiate five added minutes.

And in a final minute escape for Wednesday Deeny dribbled through the middle... and shot wide.