Leicester 1-3 Wednesday
Walkers Stadium, Leicester
26/04/08 - 15:00
Wednesday never like to do things the easy way and they certainly didn't as they took a huge step to Championship survival with a huge victory over relegation rivals Leicester City in an entertaining clash at the Walkers Stadium.
The sold out signs had been put up around the ground prior to the massive clash, and it was the Owls' who showed the character and skill, which hadn't been shown in previous weeks, that sent their travelling orange army home with smiles on faces to leave Wednesday's fate in their own hands.
The match had almost everything, passion, atmosphere, two penalty misses, an opening goal from the hosts and a second half comeback from the Owls that even saw Leon Clarke come from the bench to score with almost his first touch of the game.
It was a must-win match for the Owls, no doubt about it, although a draw for the hosts could well have seen them safe if Norwich failed to beat QPR.
Owls' boss Brian Laws made some interesting changes to the side that lost so disappointingly at Blackpool last week, with a three-pronged attack of Deon Burton, Bartosz Slusarski and Ben Sahar, while Steve Watson returned to the midfield and Lee Bullen started at right-back with Peter Gilbert suspended.
And the game started in typically frantic fashion, with the Owls lucky to escape an early goal mouth scramble which saw the Foxes pepper the Wednesday box with shots, but the Owls defenders threw themselves at the ball to rid the danger, before Lee Grant made a smart save to deny frontman Steve Howard as the Foxes started the brighter.
Wednesday have made a bad habit of conceding early goals in recent matches, and it was the same again at the Walkers Stadium as Iain Hume made the most of some slack defending from Lee Bullen to fire the hosts' ahead after just nine minutes.
Bullen failed to deal with a long-ball forward, and Canadian international Hume capitalised to round 'keeper Grant and put the ball in to the back of the empty net to leave the travelling Wednesday fans wondering if it'll be Leyton Orient rather than Bramall Lane that they'll be travelling to next season.
But, as with last week at Blackpool, Wednesday offered a swift response to their early set-back and came close to levelling just a minute later as Richard Wood put his header from a Franck Songo'o free-kick just wide of goal.
Wednesday received somewhat of a boost on 20 minutes when Leicester defender Patrick Kisnorbo, arguably one of the Foxes' players of the year and captain, left the field with an injury to be replaced by Bruno N'Gotty.
But the set-back for Ian Holloway did little to stop the Foxes looking the better team in the early exchanges, Richard Stearman causing problems for Tommy Spurr on the right while Grant did well to stop a long-range effort from young livewire James Wesolowski.
But Wednesday could, and should, have levelled matters on 27 minutes when referee Chris Foy pointed to the spot after Barry Hayles had handled a Franck Songo'o corner inside the box.
Deon Burton was the man given the chance to get Wednesday back on level terms but the pressure got to the former Derby hitman and Leicester stopper Paul Henderson made what turned out to be a comfortable save to heap more pressure on the Owls.
Leicester were also looking for a penalty at the other end, with tricky striker Iain Hume going down under two challenges inside the Owls box, but referee Foy waved away both shouts from the Canadian, who didn't take the calls too well.
The game fizzed out in the latter stages of the first-half, but that proved to be to Wednesday's advantage as they drew level in first-half stoppage time through West Brom loanee Slusarksi.
The Polish striker was put in the clear down the Owls' left by Songo'o before turning his marker inside the Leicester box and firing a powerful effort across Henderson and in to the back of the net to send the Owls' fans in to hysterics, and more importantly give Wednesday the momentum going in to the half-time interval.
Half-Time: Leicester 1-1 Wednesday
Laws made just the one change to his side at half-time, with Bullen coming off, with a suspected hamstring injury, to be replaced by the speedy Jermaine Johnson at right-back.
Johnson has filled in at right-back before, linking well with Songo'o but also making a few costly mistakes in the process, but I expect with Bullen's mistake leading to Leicester's early goal, Owls' fans will have been pleased to see an extra attacking threat on the pitch for the visitors.
It was the hosts who again took the game to Wednesday on the restart, although once the Owls found their feet they started to look the more dangerous on the attack, and the more likely to get the next goal.
And they did on 52 minutes.
The Owls put together arguably their move of the match with some fine passing which saw Franck Songo'o and Burton link well before Steve Watson pinged in a fine drive by Henderson to turn the game on its head and put Wednesday in the driving seat.
Although the clash brought Leicester's biggest home crowd of the season, it was the Wednesday fans who were making all the noise and acting as a 12th man for Brian Laws' men.
But the travelling 3,200 fans in the away end - and the splattering of Owls' fans in the home ends - were left to endure probably one of the most painful second 45 minutes of the season as Wednesday looked to cling on to all three huge points.
And things got even worse when the Foxes won a penalty after Johnson had handled inside the box, to give former Tranmere forward Hume a superb chance to level up for the Foxes, only to send his penalty crashing wide of Grant's goal to leave Wednesday fans thinking that it was maybe their day after all.
Grant has been in exceptional form all season, and had to be at the top of his game again to deny former Luton Town targetman Howard a goal by tipping his header over the bar from point-blank range.
Changes were made by both managers as the game drew to its 'business end', with Holloway throwing on Matty Fryatt and DJ Campbell to add to Leicester's attacking threat, although it was at the expense of Hume, who seemed to be the biggest threat to the Wednesday goal throughout.
Ronnie Wallwork came on for the Owls on 74 minutes to try and counter the attacking threat from the hosts, with Songo'o the man to be taken off.
And Laws' next change on 84 minutes proved to be decisive, as Leon Clarke came off the bench to replace Ben Sahar and bagged the third goal to all-but seal the crucial win for Wednesday.
Clarke beat the Leicester offside trap and produced a top-class first-time finish to lob Henderson in the Leicester goal and see his effort land in the back of the net before racing away to the travelling Owls' fans to celebrate with them, and three vital points.
The Owls' fate is now in their own hands going in to the final game of the season, with the victory at the Walkers seeing them leapfrog their opponents and Southampton.
Full-Time: Leicester 1-3 Wednesday
Leicester: Henderson, Stearman, McAuley, Kisnorbo (N'Gotty 21), Clapham, Bell, Oakley, Wesolowski, Hayles (Fryatt 78), Hume (Campbell 78), Howard. Unused substitutes: Alnwick, Mattock.
Wednesday: Grant, Bullen (Johnson 46), Wood, Beevers, Spurr, Songo'o (Wallwork 74) Bolder, Watson, Slusarski, Sahar (Clarke 84), Burton. Unused substitutes: Burch, Esajas.