Wednesday 2-1 Watford
24/03/10 - 7.45pm
LUKE Varney provided a late, late show to fire the Owls to three crucial points in a relegation scrap against Watford at Hillsborough.
The on-loan striker kept his cool to provide a superb finish just a minute from time to fire Wednesday above the Hornets and four points clear of the Championship relegation zone.
Fellow loanee Eddie Nolan had given the Owls the lead early in the second half of what was mainly a drab affair before another loan player, Manchester United midfielder Tom Cleverley, levelled with a superb free-kick for the visitors.
But Wednesday were deserved winners on the night, just, and Varney's late winner could well prove to be the most important goal in Wednesday's season to forget.
He was the only change to Alan Irvine's side that drew 0-0 with Derby County at the weekend, coming in to replace Leon Clarke who dropped to the bench.
Captain Darren Purse was given the all-clear to play despite fears this week that he might miss out through injury.
The first-half passed with little skill and few chances from both sides - the positions in the table certainly didn't lie for either side in the first 45 minutes.
Watford will have come to S6 and have been the happier of the two sides had the game ended equal, and it showed with their place in the early exchanges.
The Owls did go for it early on but poor final balls, a lack of support play and poor finishing cost them throughout the first-half.
Only James O'Connor's ambitious long-range chip - which went well wide of the Watford goal - came close to testing either goalkeeper in the opening 25 minutes of a drab affair.
Wednesday were dealt a blow on the half-hour mark when Tommy Miller had to leave the field injured, Leon Clarke coming on to replace him and partner Marcus Tudgay in attack, with Varney moving to midfield.
But the change, which also saw Wednesday change to a 4-3-3 line-up, did little to change the flow of the game or spark it into life.
As the match wore on the Owls faithful - backed by a not-too-bad following of 18,000-plus inside Hillsborough - grew slightly restless and Wednesday didn't get the best reception when they went in at the end of the first-half.
Half-Time: Wednesday 0-0 Watford
The game couldn't get much worse on the resumption and both sides started to make in-roads in the opening exchanges.
Marcus Tudgay should have done better when he placed a header well wide of goal while at the other end Heidar Helguson was the first Hornet to test Owls stopper Lee Grant.
The chances were still only half-chances though and the game seemed to need something special to spark it into life and break the deadlock.
And it came from the Owls' on-loan left-back just over ten minutes after the restart.
Nolan found his way by two Watford markers on the right before being given the space and time to drill a low shot underneath Hornets stopper Scott Loach.
In the truth, the Watford number one should probably have done better with the effort but that wasn't going to stop Nolan celebrating his first goal as a Wednesday player.
Wednesday should have taken the momentum, but in typical fashion they let Watford back into the game.
It was unfortunate that the referee awarded a free-kick for handball right on the edge of the box, but Cleverley wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth as he fired the visitors level with a superb free-kick.
The game could have gone either way as both Helguson and Varney saw chances come and go.
It all looked too late when Owls boss Irvine introduced Francis Jeffers from the bench in place of Tom Soares.
But on 89 minutes Varney was left in plenty of space on the left to surge towards goal before unleashing an unstoppable effort to give the Owls three crucial points and start wild celebrations at S6.
The striker was booked for taking his shirt off in the celebrations - but it was worth it.
The victory could well prove to be Wednesday's biggest of the season, and they need to take it into a vital clash at Coventry City this weekend.
Full-Time: Wednesday 2-1 Watford