Sheffield Wednesday’s promotion juggernaut shows no sign of grinding to a halt anytime soon.
Carlos Carvalhal’s troops underlined their class and character against Blackburn Rovers, coming from behind to record a fourth successive Championship victory.
Under the lights at Hillsborough, the Owls had to do things the hard way. The visitors opened the scoring 27 seconds into the second half through Craig Conway’s header. They briefly threatened to cause an upset.
But there is a reason why the Owls (38) are the top home scorers in the division.
Adam Henley’s 51st minute own goal levelled things up and Ross Wallace completed the turnaround in the 62nd minute, claiming his fourth goal of the campaign.
At 1-1, Wednesday’s cause was significantly helped by Conway’s dismissal for a dangerous looking challenge on Alex Lopez.
Carvalhal continued his squad rotation policy, altering the left hand side of his team. Czech Republic defender Daniel Pudil was recalled after shaking off a minor knock sustained on international duty while Lucas Joao was handed his first start in almost a month.
It meant a tactical reshuffle, with Wednesday lining up in a 4-3-3 formation. Joao and Gary Hooper were deployed on the left and ring flanks respectively, supporting top-scorer Fernando Forestieri.
There was no Sam Hutchinson in the match-day squad. The utility ace is still struggling to recover from a fever.
A crunching tackle by Lopez deep inside the Owls’ half brought a big cheer from the home fans and briefly lifted the noise levels.
It was the hosts who controlled the early skirmishes, although they rarely appeared capable of unlocking Blackburn’s stubborn rearguard.
Just before the quarter of an hour mark, Forestieri cleverly freed Wallace, whose low 25-yard drive was comfortably gathered by Jason Steele.
It took a superb block from skipper Glenn Loovens to prevent Ben Marshall testing the reflexes of Keiren Westwood following a great run by the former Wednesday loanee.
Despite receiving treatment for several minutes from the club’s medical team following that brave piece of defending, Loovens was forced off in the 25th minute and replaced by Vincent Sasso. It was a rejig the Owls could have done without as Loovens has been in excellent form since regaining his first-team spot.
There was plenty of intricate passing football from the hosts. Just little end product.
Hooper should have done better after a clever turn inside the penalty area after latching on to Hunt’s deflected delivery only to toe-poke it straight at Steele.
The experiment of fielding Joao on the left didn’t really work and, for the most part, the Owls lacked cohesion and balance in the final third. To be fair, Blackburn put lots of men behind the ball, defending in numbers and made life difficult for Carvalhal’s side without posing much of a goal threat themselves.
Steele fumbled a fierce long range Lopez strike in one of Wednesday’s better forays forward.
For all their neat approach play, the Owls found it tough to break Blackburn down. They missed Barry Bannan’s invention and wide-ranging passing in the middle of the park.
Wednesday, after over six hours without conceding, were caught napping after the re-start, Conway diving to head in Darragh Lenihan’s fine centre.
But Rovers joy was short-lived as the Owls equalised. Hooper released Wallace down the right and the Scot’s attempted cross took a wicked deflection off Adam Henley and looped over a helpless Steele.
Moments later, Conway turned from hero to zero. He was given his marching orders after a two-footed tackle on Lopez.
After a poor first half, it had proven to be an eventful start to the second period.
Conway’s sending off handed Wednesday the initiative and Wallace made their numerical advantage count, placing a right foot volley out of Steele’s reach to complete the comeback after Forestieri brilliantly wriggled his way to the byline. The attack all stemmed from a long punt upfield by Westwood.
The margin of the victory could have been more emphatic had Steele not denied Pudil after good build up play by Joao and Forestieri.
It turned into a one-sided contest and Forestieri twice came close to adding to Wednesday’s lead.
Joao kept pushing for a third and side-footed narrowly wide before substitute Aiden McGeady rattled the woodwork as the hosts continued to pass and probe.
Victory keeps them in fifth position, five points clear of seventh-placed Cardiff City with six matches left. There is still even a slim chance of automatic promotion. With the way Wednesday are playing, anything is possible.
Owls: Westwood; Hunt, Loovens (Sasso 25), Lees, Pudil; Wallace (McGeady 76), Lee, Lopez, Forestieri (Nuhiu 79); Hooper, Joao. Substitutes: Wildsmith, Palmer, Matias, McGugan.
Blackburn: Steele; Marshall, Hanley, Ward, Henley; Conway, Lenihan, Grimes, Gomez (Akpan 71); Bennett (Brown 77), Graham. Substitutes: Raya, Kilgallon, Lowe, Williamson, Jackson.
Referee: David Webb (Lancashire)