The night Sheffield Wednesday players thought a rocking Hillsborough might come down around them

“I thought, 'Jesus, the stand's going to come down in a minute!'”

Thursday, 14th May 2020, 5:21 pm

Those were Tom Lees’ thoughts after the match. It felt exactly that way.

‘We’re Sheffield Wedesday, we’re on our way back...’ the anthem of a season, thumped through Hillsborough. A somewhat surprising charge towards a return to the Premier League had hit this moment and caused a sonic boom around S6.

An impromptu lightshow from the stands, phone torches flickering like stars, in your mind softened the noise to bring about an almost dream-like experience before yet again the din lifted and the old ground shook once more to the sound of a community rising in the belief that, yes... this is our night and yes... this could be our year.

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Putting to one side what happened in the days, weeks, months and even years after, this night at Hillsborough, however bittersweet, remains once of the most memorable in Wednesday’s recent history.

It was a night that put the Owls back on the big stage, nearly two decades after they were relegated from the top flight, and reminded the rest of the country of the club’s mangitude.

They absolutely battered Brighton.

The scoreline may have read 2-0, but Carlos Carvalhal’s side were incredible, deserving of at least two more goals and the Seagulls were being shot down – almost literally in some respects as they picked up a number of injuries which really only added to the tension.

Fernando Forestieri first lifted the roof with a strike that was ultimately ruled out for offside, much to his Portuguese boss’ anger.

However, there was no frustration when just before half time, Ross Wallace jinked inside and drove beyond David Stockdale.

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And with about 20 minutes remaining, Brighton on the ropes, Kieran Lee struck the decisive blow latching onto a Forestieri through ball to double the lead.

Barry Bannan on centre stage during the play-off semi final first leg win for Sheffield Wednesday against Brighton at Hillsborough

A packed-out stadium, under the Friday night lights on a mild May evening, had bristled, shook and exploded throughout. Even the players admitted to having their senses heightened by what was going on around them.

“It sends a shiver down your spine. It is unbelievable,” said Lee afterwards.

"It was absolutely unreal," Tom Lees then told the press at a Hillsborough that was now empty but still felt like it was holding the noise of the previous few hours. "It was the best atmosphere I've played in by a country mile.

"The lads were saying afterwards when all the lights went on (the fans) phones, all round the stadium, it gave us goosebumps. At one point when one side was bouncing, I could see on the pitch, the floodlights were actually moving. I thought, 'Jesus, the stand's going to come down in a minute!'

Carlos Carvalhal manager of Sheffield Wednesday (2ndL) reacts after Fernando Forestieri had his goal disallowed during the Sky Bet Championship Play Off First Leg between Sheffield Wednesday and Brighton & Hove Albion at Hillsborough on May 13, 2016 in Sheffield, England. (Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images)

"That shows how much noise and how much passion there was."

A few days later, 2,000 Wednesdayites headed south and watched their side defend like their lives depended on it, with a 1-1 draw sealing a place at Wembley.

We all know what happened there and in the years since at Wednesday, but even still, that night of May 13 in Sheffield will remain etched in the memory of all those who were there.

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Players celebrate after Kieran Lee of Sheffield Wednesday scored during the Sky Bet Championship Play Off First Leg between Sheffield Wednesday and Brighton & Hove Albion at Hillsborough on May 13, 2016 in Sheffield, England. (Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images)

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Nancy Fielder, editor