Temporary manager makes it two from two
Sheffield Wednesday kicked off 2021 with a third home victory in succession on New Years Day as Wayne Rooney’s Derby County were beaten at Hillsborough.
Caretaker manager Neil Thompson was forced to make two changes to the team that beat Middlesbrough in his first game in charge. Keiren Westwood and Chey Dunkley were unavailable due to minor injuries so Joe Wildsmith returned in goal and Adam Reach returned to the side having recovered from a minor knock of his own. With Dunkley joining Iorfa, Borner and Van Aken on the injury list, Wednesday were left short of centre-backs so young Liam Shaw, scorer of the match-winning goal against Middlesbrough, moved into the back line.
Derby came into the game on the back of a 4-0 win over Birmingham and they started confidently. The visitors dominated possession for much of the first 30 minutes and will have been disappointed not to take the lead from a number of chances in that time.
Shinnie miss-hit a shot when well placed that Bannan was able to clear for a corner, Clark saw a close-range flick deflected wide by Lees and a Bielik header from a corner was scrambled to safety. Kazim Richards then ran off the back of Lees as Derby created a good move around the Wednesday box and he lost the other Owls centre-back Shaw in the penalty area but could only plant his close-range header against the crossbar.
Having survived the early onslaught the Owls passed up a good chance of their own just before half-time when a fine Bannan free-kick was headed wide at the far post by Kachunga, who had replaced the injured Windass earlier in the half.
The Rams looked to start the second half as they had done the first, Sibley struck a shot wide and Forsyth produced a lovely low cross from the Derby left that just evaded two Derby players as it fizzed across the goal.
Wednesday were more competitive than they had been in the first 45 minutes however and from a Bannan free-kick they took the lead around the hour mark. The Owls won a near-post flick on that the visitors struggled to clear from under their own bar, Lees then won another header around 6 yards out and Paterson reacted quickest, flicking a header over the line from close range.
The Owls dropped in to look to hold what they had and play on the break in the closing stages. The organisation and application was much better than it was in the first half and although Derby were able to continue to enjoy the large share of the ball they could not find a way through and Wildsmith was largely untested in the last 25 minutes. The Rams went close in the last minute of stoppage time when Wednesday struggled to clear a ball into the box, resulting in Kadeem Harris making a fine last-gasp block at the back post. From the resulting rebound a Derby cross hit Harris on the hand from close range but it was very much a case of ball-to-hand and the desperate penalty appeals were rightly ignored.
The win sees Wednesday climb out of the Championship relegation zone for the first time this season, taking them up to 20th ahead of the remaining Championship fixtures from the round of matches.
Wednesday now have a week to prepare for their FA Cup game at Exeter and they don’t have a league game until a trip to Coventry on 16th January so by then they will hopefully have some players ready to return from injury and may even make some moves in the January transfer window.