Date: 28th November 2007 at 11:09am
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It’s 24 years and still waiting for Barnsley fans after Akpo Sodje’s 61st minute winner gave the Owls all three points in the South Yorkshire derby on Tuesday night.

Simon Davey’s men came in to the clash as favourites after a fine start to the season, but the clash was also going to go down to the wire with the Owls also in a similar vein of fine form after going five games unbeaten.

And so it turned out, with a case of ‘cometh the hour, cometh the man’ as Sodje continued growing his reputation at Hillsborough with a giant header to make it six games unbeaten for Brian Laws’ men in front of a decent Hillsborough crowd.

Laws stuck with the same side that drew 0-0 at QPR on Saturday, with Glenn Whelan failing a late fitness test to get a recall to the side, while goalscorer Sodje was also passed fit just before the game after picking up a hip injury at Loftus Road.

Last season’s clash between the two sides saw Wednesday run out with the same result thanks to a late, late Chris Brunt strike in somewhat of a lacklustre derby match.

But although there were plenty of nerves on show from the players on the pitch, this time around the match was much more entertaining, and somewhat too nailbiting at times for both sets of fans.

Although both teams came in to the clash full of confidence with their impressive recent form, it was Wednesday who got in to their stride the quickest asMarcus Tudgay just missed out on a Jermaine Johnson cross, while Steve Watson saw his effort go straight in to the arms of Barnsley stopper Heinz Muller.

But the visitors had the best early chance of the game on 15 minutes as Lee Grant continued his top form from Loftus Road by tipping over Dennis Souza’s header from a dangerous Brian Howard corner as Barnsley got in to the game.

And although Wednesday were never under immediate pressure around their box, they were perhaps playing their best football on the break through jet-heeled winger Jermaine Johnson and the powerful runs of Sodje.

A neat move on the half-hour mark, started by Watson on the edge of the Wednesday box, saw Johnson breakaway and feed the former Everton man, who seemed to be somewhat unsure as to whether to produce a cross or a shot and ended up doing neither as the ball floated harmlessly out of play.

The chances were coming very few and far between with both defences coming out on top in the early exchanges and it was always going to take something special to make a breakthrough in the first half.

And that came through Frank Simek minutes before half time, as the American went on one of his charging runs through the Barnsley defence and launched a stinging low effort across the face of Muller’s goal and just too inches from the foot of Sodje.

And the Owls’ new recruit showed what’s needed for a full-blooded South Yorkshire derby when he went charging in for a 50/50 ball with Barnsley stopper Muller, resulting in the duo needing lengthy treatment.

Half-Time: Wednesday 0-0 Barnsley

The message from both managers at the break must have been to calm down as they looked for the decisive breakthrough.

And Wednesday had the best chance of the match just minutes in when O’Brien’s cross was almost turned in to his own goal by Dominic Werling, and Marcus Tudgay was well positioned to find the rebound just yards out but his effort was superbly stopped by Muller – who’s wanted by a number of Premiership teams following his tip-top form for the Reds.

Set pieces were aplenty in the match, and it always looked likely that the breakthrough would come this way, or from a moment of magic.

And with the latter distinctly lacking in a rough and tumble match, it was cometh the hour cometh the man as a 61st minute free-kick from O’Brien was whipped in to the back of the net by a towering header from Sodje to put Wednesday in to the advantage.

The goal came on the end of probably the best spell of possession in the match from Wednesday, who will have felt they deserved their lead after coming flying out of the blocks.

But instead of going forward and looking to complete the three points with another goal, Wednesday looked happy to sit back and soak up the pressure that Barnsley had to throw at them.

Steve Watson had another impresive game in the blue and white stripes, offering protection for the back four, while Yoann Folly added some much-needed energy and determination in the centre of midfield alongside the former Everton man.

Martin Devaney was the Reds’ biggest threat, with Simek adopting a cautious approach to the tricky winger by leaving him unmarked to strut his stuff on a number of occassions in the second half.

And it was the former Watford man who came close for the Reds with a stinging effort, while Istvan Ferenczi also came close as Barnsley upped the pressure for the final 20 minutes as they looked to end their Hillsborough hoodoo.

But although Wednesday were busier in defence than attack, they had the better chances in front of goal, one of which came to Sodje when he played to the whistle after the referee allowed advantage following a foul, but he lashed his powerful low effort across the face of goal when he should have done better.

Former Rotherham winger Jemal Campbell-Ryce looked lively on the right for the Reds, but youngster Tommy Spurr enjoyed another impressive game at left-back to limit the tricky winger.

But with Barnsley pushing everything but the kitchen sink forward, Wednesday always looked dangerous on the break and Yoann Folly went on a surging run down the middle of the park before unleashing a powerful effort just wide of Muller’s goal.

And O’Brien could also have done better when he wrong-footed his marker but seemingly didn’t know what to do with the ball when through on goal, and the Barnsley defence scrambled the ball to safety.

But despite the four-minutes added time that appeared from nowhere, Wednesday fans clung on to the majority of their nails by picking up another three points and leaving their rivals from up the M1 going home with nothing to show for their efforts.

Full-Time: Wednesday 1-0 Barnsley

Wednesday: Grant, Hinds, Simek, Michael Johnson, Spurr, O’Brien, Watson, Jermaine Johnson (Small 75), Folly, Tudgay (Burton 86), Sodje. Subs Not Used: Esajas, Beevers, Lunt.

Barnsley: Muller, Souza, Foster, Nyatanga, Werling (Christensen 81), Devaney, Campbell-Ryce, De Silva, Howard, Ferenczi (Odejayi 67), Macken. Subs Not Used: Reid, Togwell, McCann.