It was the ‘Fessi’ show once again at Hillsborough as the Owls cruised to a fifth win in seven Championship outings.
The return to fitness of Fernando Forestieri has coincided with Wednesday’s recent upturn in fortunes.
The talismanic forward, out injured for the majority of the season, bagged goals either side of half-time and played a key role in George Boyd’s tap-in.
A fully fit and firing Forestieri, or Fessi as he is affectionately known in S6, is a hard man to contain.
“I think Fernando was very inspirational,” said manager Jos Luhukay. “Fernando made the important moments. He scored goals, was dangerous and made opportunities for us.
“Fernando can do unbelievable things. You have to give players like him support.
“The players who make or score the goals are in the spotlight.
“We are happy for Fernando, but we must also look at what the team has done over the last two months.”
Victory lifted the Owls to 15th with two matches left to play.
Midfielder Barry Bannan said: “It was a good result and we won emphatically in the end. A good performance.
“We just need to keep going and finish as high in the table as possible. That was the mood in the changing room. It could have been a difficult day for us if we didn’t turn up with the right mentality.”
The team’s mini revival has raised spirits following a campaign to forget.
“The mood is good, but it’s too late now,” said Scotland international Bannan. “We are obviously happy at winning games, but it doesn’t really matter now the season has finished.
“It’s good, but we should have done this earlier.
“We lost too many players to injuries. Any team would miss four players, we lost eight or nine, so it was difficult. We needed to get wins on the board, never did it, and that’s why we found ourselves where we are.
There was a big let-off for the Owls just before the half-hour mark when Cameron Dawson, preferred in between the sticks to Joe Wildsmith, spilled a cross at the feet of Jon Dadi Bodvarsson but the Reading striker’s shot was superbly blocked near the line by Frederico Venancio.
It was left to Forestieri to break the deadlock. Boyd fed the overlapping Daniel Pudil down the left and his cross was flicked up and fired home on the half-volley by Forestieri from 12 yards via a deflection off Tiago Ilori.
“Fernando is a good player,” said Bannan. “Opposition players want to kick him. We want to kick him ourselves when he is not running back.
“But he is such a talent and you just have to let him do his own thing, sometimes; work around him.
“He wins games for this club, so we need to keep him fit. He was a big miss but there has been a combination of different players being injured, the spine of the team, big characters.
Forestieri is a direct, skilful player but it was his hard work and tenacity which stood out for the second goal.
He kept play alive, refusing to allow Ilori’s clearance to drift out for a corner. Forestieri then squared the ball to Adam Reach, who shimmied passed two defenders and pulled the ball across to Boyd, who converted from close range.
Reading, only five points clear of the relegation zone, produced a lack-lustre showing and looked nothing but a side battling to stay up.
Forestieri underlined his quality with Wednesday’s third in the 71st minute.
It was a goal Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi would have been proud of. Forestieri’s sheer determination, persistence and will power to retain possession was mighty impressive. He battled his way through challenges from John Swift and Tyler Blackett, who was sent off late on after kicking out at substitute Atdhe Nuhiu, before rifling an unstoppable right-foot shot past Vito Mannone.
Bannan said: “He can get kicked pillar to post, but he just tends to get up and get on with it. I think that is his upbringing in Argentina, his background, and it’s the same with Messi and all the Argentinians. He’s a tough, tough boy, and puts himself about. His second goal, he came through two or three tackles, got the ball and finished it off brilliantly.”
Forestieri’s home league record is frighteningly good. In 39 appearances, he has netted 21 goals.
When he is in tip-top form, he’s a major asset.