Date: 14th April 2007 at 12:28pm
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The Owls crept to within three points of the Championship play-offs with a close-fought victory in a fiery clash with fellow promotion-hopefuls West Brom at the Hawthornes on Friday night.

Deon Burton’s strike just before the hour mark gave Brian Laws’ men all three points as Neil Clement and Darren Carter both saw red late on as the Baggies’ recent poor home form continued in front of the Sky cameras.

The victory takes Wednesday to within three points of the play-off spots at the start of play on Saturday, and should results go the right way today Brian Laws and his men may well be confident of securing a shock top-six finish with three games remaining this season.

The Owls gaffer made two changes to the side that beat Ipswich on Easter Monday with Frank Simek returning to the side following his three-match ban to replace Steve Watson who was unavailable due to terms in his loan agreement from the Baggies.

Deon Burton also made a welcome return to the starting line-up to partner Steve Maclean in attack while Leon Clarke dropped to the bench alongside Jermaine Johnson who was brought back in to the squad.

But the Baggies also welcomed back some stars of their own with Kevin Phillips and Neil Clement returning to the bench while Jason Koumas recovered from a knock in the victory at Norwich to also be part of the sixteen.

The crowd at The Hawthornes was boosted by a late ‘kids for a quid’ offer and a healthy travelling contingent from Sheffield made for a lively atmosphere in front of the nation.

Although Wednesday’s good run of form had seen them one of the form sides in the division, the clash with Tony Mowbray’s men was set to be their toughest yet – even more so given the Baggies’ desire to get their season firmly back on trakc after a mixed bag of results in recent weeks.

And indeed it was the hosts who set the tempo in the early stages with star man Diomansy Kamara causing Tommy Spurr all kinds of problems down the left hand side.

Kamara, one of the Championship’s top scorers, looked to have been given a free role in the Baggies attack and it was he who came closest as he raced on to a Nathan Ellington ball but was met with a superb late challenge from the ever-improving Richard Wood in the Owls defence.

The Owls defence needed to be on their toes for the full 90 minutes and they did well to reduce Mowbray’s men to long range efforts from Darren Carter and Kamara in the opening stages.

And it was Wednesday who maybe felt they should have taken the advantage as Deon Burton raced in to the box only to be bundled over in what can only be described as a ‘sandwich’ – but the referee waved the protests for a penalty away to the relief of the on-loan Sam Sodje.

The attack gave Wednesday belief though and they forced some pressure on the West Brom goal as Steve Maclean hit a long-range effort wide before Glenn Whelan saw his attempted volley deflected over the bar for the corner.

The match was certainly an entertaining one for the viewers with end-to-end action for the majority of the opening period.

A number of Chris Brunt corners caused havoc in Dean Keily’s box before Kamara was again the centre of the hosts’ attack as he forced an angled shot in to the side netting with a number of home fans celebrating a goal.

Further chances fell to Richard Wood from a Brunt cross and Steve Maclean after good link-up play in the Wednesday attack fro, Burton and Marcus Tudgay but they couldn’t produce the finishing touch in front of goal.

But the best chance of the half fell to the £3m man Nathan Ellington as Iain Turner’s save to deny Jonathan Greening fell straight in to his path, only to see his effort well blocked by Lee Bullen for a corner.

It was a surprise that the scores remained level at the break after a superb display of attacking football from both sides but it was perhaps the Owls who will have been the happier going in to the break.

Half-Time: West Brom 0-0 Wednesday

But if the Baggies made a fast start to the first half, they made an even more electric start to the second as the Wednesday defence had to be on full guard as the hosts sent a number of dangerous crosses in to the box.

On-loan stopper Iain Turner was being watched in the stands by Everton boss David Moyes, and the Scotsman will have been pleased with what he was seeing as Turner made a number of routine saves and catches early in the second half.

And Turner’s confidence between the sticks seemed to have an effect on the rest of the side with a ‘never say die’ attitude throughout the remaining 45 minutes.

Former Birmingham man Darren Carter did manage to break through the stubborn Owls defence early on but his final touch let him down and Turner came rushing from his line to clean up.

And the breakthrough came probably against the run of play just before the hour mark.

Chris Brunt was sent free down the left-hand side and his trickery got the better of his marker before the Northern Irish midfielder sent a superb low cross racing across the face of goal to allow Deon Burton to knock over from point-blank range.

Stopper Keily thought he got to the ball but the linesman flagged instantly for a goal and Burton rushed over to celebrate with the Owls following who were in hysterics.

Another Premiership manager watching in the stands was Manchester City boss Stuart Pearce – who has been linked with the services of Brunt in recent months.

Pearce will certainly have been impressed with the Ulsterman’s performance, with his undefendable cross proving to be the key moment in the match.

West Brom boss Mowbray ringed the changes following the goal with Jason Koumas and Kevin Phillips both coming on to give the hosts some extra firepower in attack.

But time and again the Baggies were thwarted by some superb defending from the Owls as Koren and Kamara came close.

But it was Wednesday who could have wrapped the game up with 15 minutes remaining as Chris Brunt saw his deflected 30-yard free-kick well turned around the post by Keily to keep the hosts in the game.

And as the hosts continued to apply the pressure in front of goal and fail to trouble Iain Turner, their frustrations grew and the Baggies ended the clash with just nine men.

Brian Laws threw former Wolves man Leon Clarke in to the fray in the final stages to a chorus of booing from the Baggies faithful.

And it was Clarke was was on the wrong end of a Neil Clement head-butt before Darren Carter chopped the striker down minutes later as the Owls looked to play out the 90 minutes, with both Baggies bad-boys seeing red to throw their chances of a point out of the window.

Full-Time: West Brom 0-1 Wednesday

Brian Laws told BBC Sport:
‘The dream is still alive. It has been a great run of results. It is still a massive ask.

‘We are still going to have to win our next three games but we had to do something against West Brom first and foremost and we have done that.

‘It’s a big dream and a big ask because we are going to have to rely heavily on other results, and you are probably talking about four or five teams who are going to have to blow up.’

Tony Mowbray told BBC Sport:
‘I said to them in the dressing room that I’m not interested in false bravado. It doesn’t get you any points. I’d prefer us to apply ourselves on the football pitch and show the skill we’ve got.

‘Our disciplinary record this season is something that needs to dramatically improve next season. I think what has happened is a frustration in-built into the team this season.

‘We are not an overly aggressive team and yet we have one of the worst disciplinary records in the league. It’s a bit hard to fathom.’