The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Sean Tay­lor

STE­VIE May’s late goal gave Sh­effield Wed­nes­day a lon­gawaited Cham­pi­onship vic­tory at Hills­bor­ough, much to the re­lief of Owls boss Stu­art Gray.

It looked like the game would fin­ish in a stale­mate, but May’s de­flected free-kick broke the dead­lock and gave Wed­nes­day a first home league win since March.

Gray’s side had sur­vived a cou­ple of scares. Keiren West­wood saved Glenn Mur­ray’s first-half penalty be­fore Mur­ray, who the Owls tried to sign on loan ear­lier this year, then saw a header strike the cross­bar.

West­wood also had to be at his best to deny Jake Cooper from point-blank range.

Gray ad­mit­ted Wed­nes­day had per­haps rode their luck at times, but he was happy to fi­nally get a mon­key off his back.

“It’s nice to put that one to bed be­cause peo­ple keep say­ing that we haven’t won here since March 26 in the league, so they’ll have to think of another ques­tion now next week,” said Gray.

“We were on the back foot at times but I felt that the penalty save was prob­a­bly the defin­ing mo­ment in the game. It gave us a lift and it gave the fans a lift. We seemed to then pick up a bit of mo­men­tum.

“Credit to Read­ing be­cause they closed us down and pressed us. They forced er­rors, but the play­ers re­sponded.

“We started the sec­ond half very well and prob­a­bly de­served the win in the end.

“We could prob­a­bly have had two more penal­ties. The ref­eree per­haps needed a lit­tle bit of help from his lines­men on those de­ci­sions.

“Ste­vie May’s free-kick took a de­flec­tion and the ball ended up in the bot­tom cor­ner of the net, but we earned that break, I thought.

“They say th­ese things even them­selves out over the course of a sea­son, and we went to Bolton last week, had 25 goal at­tempts and didn’t get a break.”

Read­ing boss Nigel Ad­kins was not too down­beat de­spite de­feat in South York­shire.

The loss ended a run of four straight wins in all com­pe­ti­tions for the Roy­als, who Ad­kins be­lieves are mak­ing good progress.

“I thought we did well in the first half and kept the crowd quiet,” said Ad­kins.

“We had some good spells in the game and cre­ated some good chances but West­wood has made some good saves. Un­for­tu­nately, he saved the penalty with his feet.

“All in all, it was a good Cham­pi­onship fix­ture, although it’s fair to say the ref­eree had an in­ter­est­ing af­ter­noon. Was it a penalty when Alex Pearce knocked the ball back and the ball struck the de­fender’s arm?

“But lis­ten, I’m re­ally ex­cited about the fu­ture. The sta­bil­ity is now here be­cause for a good 18 months I would sug­gest it hasn’t been there. There are very ex­cit­ing times ahead. In­stead of hav­ing to sell play­ers we might be able to bring some in.”

Ad­kins re­vealed he was forced to change his plans be­fore kick-off at Hills­bor­ough, with Michael Hec­tor and Adam Fed­erici fall­ing vic­tims to in­jury.

He said: “We had to make two en­forced changes this morn­ing. Jake Cooper came in to make his start­ing de­but at cen­tre-half be­cause Michael Hec­tor picked up a head in­jury the other day so we had to follow the Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion’s pro­to­col, which dic­tates that the player doesn’t play in the next match.

“Jake has come through the academy and I thought he was top drawer.

“Mikkel An­der­sen made his de­but in goal be­cause ‘Feds’ (Fed­erici) was just feel­ing his calf a lit­tle. He had one shot on tar­get to deal with and un­for­tu­nately it was de­flected past him for the win­ner. There wasn’t any­thing he could do about that.”

PIC­TURES: Me­dia Im­age Ltd

IN THE BAG: Sh­effield Wed­nes­day play­ers cel­e­brate after Ste­vie May scores

SCORCHER: Ste­vie May scores from dis­tance

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