Joao picks the per­fect time to help Wed­nes­day get on a roll

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - FOOTBALL - Leon Wobschall AT HILLS­BOR­OUGH Email: leon.wobschall@ypn.co.uk Twitter: @LeonWobYP

IT WAS a month where the talk was about em­bar­goes, en­mity and em­bar­rass­ment.

His­tory will also show that Au­gust, 2018 was a month where Sh­effield Wed­nes­day made their best start to a Cham­pi­onship sea­son in four years un­der the chair­man­ship of De­jphon Chan­siri.

Cri­sis, what cri­sis? Funny old game.

For Wed­nes­dayites and their Thai owner, the shrill of the fi­nal whis­tle on Satur­day will have made for sweet, sweet mu­sic.

The trans­fer em­bargo is no more, the with­er­ing so­cial me­dia crit­i­cism of Chan­siri has qui­etened con­sid­er­ably and 14th­placed Wed­nes­day are two points away from the top six. Mem­o­ries of a des­per­ate Sun­day-worst per­for­mance at Brent­ford have also quickly dis­si­pated.

Given the capri­cious form of Wed­nes­day, as un­pre­dictable as the good old Bri­tish weather, the land­scape will, no doubt, change again. But for now, there is thanks.

It was a dog-eared, scruffy af­ter­noon on Satur­day, as can of­ten be the way at the end of a three­game Cham­pi­onship week and a bot­tle­neck Au­gust.

But the Owls found a way, thanks in no small part to the ra­zor-sharp in­stincts of Lu­cas Joao, who picked the per­fect time to score his first goals of the cam­paign on his first start. All this com­ing in a week when he signed a con­tract ex­ten­sion se­cur­ing his Hills­bor­ough fu­ture un­til 2021.

The penalty-area nous of Joao has been fleet­ing dur­ing his time at the club, but his pair of sharp head­ers sug­gest he might just be learn­ing on that count at last.

Wed­nes­day had their for­tune, cer­tainly with the harsh 75thminute dis­missal of Toto Nsiala af­ter a strong, but clean tackle on Fer­nando Forestieri when the de­fender’s only con­cern was clear­ing the ball and not the man.

With the gi­ant cen­tre-half – who had ear­lier headed Ip­swich level – not about, the hosts in­stantly filled their boots with Joao head­ing home a re­bound and back-to-back wins it was.

Joao said: “This is foot­ball and in the Cham­pi­onship, you have a lot of games in a short space of time and it can change ev­ery­thing.

“I am happy to score two goals to help the team. But the most im­por­tant thing was the col­lec­tive work. The con­fi­dence is bet­ter when you are win­ning games.”

Joao’s brace aside, the per­for­mances of the coltish de­fen­sive duo of Jor­dan Thorni­ley and Matt Pen­ney also left the home sup­port with a warm glow, with the im­por­tance of their prin­ci­pal con­duc­tor in Barry Ban­nan again re­in­forced – not that it was needed.

Posters ad­ver­tis­ing an evening with Ron Atkin­son – the ir­re­press­ible former Owls man­ager – are preva­lent around the grand old sta­dium. You sus­pect that Ban­nan is just the sort of player whom ‘Big Ron’ would have en­joyed work­ing with back in his pomp.

The strains of the ‘Bet­ter than Zi­dane’ song could still be heard as the Scot pre­pared to take a flag-kick by the cor­ner of the North Stand on 16 min­utes. It was a deadly, in­swing­ing de­liv­ery which found the head of Joao, who pulled away from the doz­ing Trevoh Chalobah to nod home.

An­other suc­cu­lent Ban­nan set-piece should have yielded a sec­ond soon af­ter for Thorni­ley – who had a good day oth­er­wise.

His­tor­i­cally, Ip­swich en­joy their trips to Hills­bor­ough and it was al­ways un­likely to be a straight­for­ward oc­ca­sion against a side who had not been beaten on their pre­vi­ous nine vis­its.

That was un­der­lined when Nsiala headed over the stranded Cameron Daw­son for a 40thminute lev­eller af­ter a de­flected left-wing cross from Gwion Ed­wards was nod­ded on by Ade­tayo Edun and then Luke Cham­bers.

The Kop bayed for off­side, with re­plays show­ing an Ip­swich player was. But it was El­lis Har­ri­son and not Nsiala, with the former not mak­ing an at­tempt for the ball.

An alert clear­ing header on the line from Liam Palmer thwarted Nsiala and Daw­son par­ried Har­ri­son’s ef­fort as the hosts creaked be­fore re­group­ing on the restart.

A goalline clear­ance from Jonas Knud­sen to deny Ban­nan fol­low­ing Pen­ney’s cut­back was the ma­jor sec­ond-half devel­op­ment for Wed­nes­day be­fore Jos Luhukay ac­ceded to the in­creas­ing de­mands of fans to throw Forestieri into the fray and pro­vide some much-needed dev­il­ment, with At­dhe Nuhiu turn­ing in a list­less show­ing, in par­tic­u­lar.

Nsiala’s chal­lenge on Forestieri promptly changed the dy­namic of the game, with Joao soon steer­ing home a re­bound af­ter his ini­tial header from Ban­nan’s deep cor­ner struck the post.

It was Ip­swich’s sev­enth set­piece con­ces­sion this sea­son – the sort of goal that they did not con­cede too of­ten un­der former man­ager Mick McCarthy.

Owls mid­fielder Adam Reach added: “Our foot­ball was not the best that the fans will ever see.

“But we have got six points from the last two games and I am sure the fans would rather go home with six points from two games rather than play some nice foot­ball, but get pun­ished.

“We did what we had to do to get the points this week. As con­fi­dence rises, the good foot­ball will come out.”

PICTURES: STEVE EL­LIS

CEN­TRE OF AT­TEN­TION: Sh­effield Wed­nes­day’s match-win­ner Lu­cas Joao is con­grat­u­lated by Barry Ban­nan af­ter scor­ing against Ip­swich Town who had Aris­tote Nsiala, in­set, dis­missed in the 75th minute of Satur­day’s Cham­pi­onship match at Hills­bor­ough.

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