Wednesday finished the season off on a high with victory in a thrilling clash with Norwich City at Hillsborough on Sunday.
But the game will be remembered more for Tony Warner’s ‘what happened next moment’ which saw a straight forward backpass bobble over his foot and in to the back of the net for what turned out to be the decisive goal in the clash.
Owls boss Brian Laws made a number of changes to his startling line-up with Yoann Folly moving to right-back in light of injuries to Frank Simek and Mark Beevers while Peter Gilbert came back in at left-back for Tommy Spurr who picked up a freak injury in training midweek.
Marcus Tudgay moved back in to an attacking role with Jermaine Johnson getting his first start since injury, and Steve Maclean dropping to the bench alongside Burton O’Brien, Rocky Lekaj, Sean McAllister and Leon Clarke.
The Canaries, fronted by deadly duo Rob Earnshaw and Darren Huckerby had brought a decent following up to S6 with the Carrow Road club subsidising travel, and it made for a decent ‘end of season’ atmosphere with over 28,000 inside Hillsborough.
And Wednesday looked more eager to end the season on a high in the opening stages as some neat passing resulted in Peter Gilbert finding himself unmarked and forcing Norwich stopper Tony Warner to tip the effort over the bar from the edge of the box.
But Peter Grant’s men were determined to get something from the long trip to South Yorkshire and hit back straight away, unsurprisingly through the tricky Huckerby, who wove his way inside the Owls box before seeing his effort well blocked.
The former Leeds and Coventry frontman was the cause of numerous problems for the Owls throughout the 90 minutes and was again central to City’s attack minutes later as he dragged back a cross in to the path of youngster Michael Spillane, who made his debut for the visitors at S6 in the 1-0 defeat last term.
One of Wednesday’s best weapons under Brian Laws has been the ability to work the counter-attack move like clockwork, and it almost paid off again but Glenn Whelan’s final ball for the on-rushing Jermaine Johnson was just too hard for the Jamaican international to latch on to.
But the tricky winger wasn’t to be thwarted for a second time as he put Wednesday ahead with a superb individual effort moments later.
The former Bradford man may have been forgiven for working his way in to the match after a spell on the sidelines but he fought off two Norwich challenges on the right before darting inside and launching an unstoppable effort in to the back of the net for his first goal in the Owls’ blue and white.
The goal had lifted the tempo of the end of season affair and Wednesday could, and probably should have added to their tally as Marcus Tudgay saw his header go wastefully over the bar from a Kenny Lunt cross before the Canaries defence had to be on their toes to scramble away a dangerous cross from a surprisingly quiet Chris Brunt.
But the Owls finally did double their tally on the stroke of half-time through the impressive Deon Burton.
The former Derby and Portsmouth man has been one of the club’s players of the season and he was living up to his reputation this season with another fine performance, topped off by a thunderous effort from close-range after Norwich failed to deal with a Lunt corner.
Half-Time: Wednesday 2-0 Norwich
Norwich boss Peter Grant was clearly unhappy with his sides lacklustre display at half-time by making a change with Chris Martin (no, not the Coldplay/Make Trade Fair bloke!) replacing Adam Drury.
But the City boss couldn’t have prepared for what happened to his men just minutes after the restart, in what will surely be a ‘what happened next’ question in the coming months.
Remember the Paul Robinson incident back in Croatia where the ball bobbled over his feet?
Well replace Robinson with Warner and you’ve got it in one.
Dickson Etuhu passed the ball back to the former Leeds and Millwall stopper for what looked to be a textbook hoof down the pitch, but the ball took a bobble and ended up in the back of his goal to the delight of the majority inside Hillsborough as Wednesday made it 3-0 in the most fortunate of circumstances.
Needless to say, the Wednesday fans behind Warner’s goal never let it rest whenever a backpass came his way.
If anything though, the goal lifted the visitors to get something from the game and put Wednesday in to cruise control – allowing Peter Grant’s men a way back in to the clash when really it should have been done and dusted.
Etuhu almost got his name on the scoresheet for the right team minutes later but he sent his close-range effort way over the woodwork and it looked as though nothing was going for the men in green and yellow.
Grant went for broke with Dion Dublin moving in to attack after producing a less than inspiring display at the back and the tactic almost worked minutes later when he was part of the play that saw Earnshaw again come close to netting.
Former Cardiff man Earnshaw is one of the Championships best strikers but his form of late has been reflected in Norwich’s relatively poor finish to the campaign – one which City fans expected to be at the other end of the table.
But the nippy striker didn’t make a mistake the second time of asking as he unleashed an unstoppable volley by Adamson after a flick-on from Dublin from a Norwich throw-in.
Many times this season Wednesday’s weakness has been failing to cling on to leads and the confidence at the back looked in tatters as Huckerby again ran riot to produce an inch-perfect cross which Dublin couldn’t direct goalwards.
At the other end, Kenny Lunt almost made the three points safe after a well-worked free-kick as he forced Warner to tip the ball over from a thunderous drive.
But whatever Warner could do, Adamson could do just as well at the other end as he produced a smart save to palm a Shackell header wide after Dublin got the better of Lee Bullen.
But Dublin managed to get on the end of some good Norwich play himself as he nodded a Lappin cross home to give the 2500 travelling Norwich fans hope going in to the final 15 minutes of the clash – and set up a tense finish for the Owls fans.
But Wednesday did well to shut up shop late on and could have even regained their two-goal advantage as Steve Maclean was inches away from being on the end of a Lunt free-kick while Tudgay also saw a goal chalked off for offside, depsite an impressive lob finish.
The result saw Wednesday finish the season off ninth in the Championship, four points off the play-off spots – surely a position most Owls fans would have taken come the start of the season, and even more so two months in, sitting in the bottom three.
And the squad came out to applaud the fans for their support after the match, complete with children, and also complete with Brian Laws joining in with the ‘Hi Ho Sheffield Wednesday’ rendition – BRING ON NEXT SEASON!
Full-Time: Wednesday 3-2 Norwich City
Wednesday: Adamson; Folly, Bullen, Wood, Gilbert; Johnson (MacLean 65), Lunt, Whelan, Brunt; Tudgay, Burton. Subs: O’Brien, MacLean, Clarke, Lekaj, McAllister.
Norwich: Warner; Hughes, Shackell, Dublin, Drury (Martin h-t); Huckerby, Etuhu, Fotheringham, Lappin; Earnshaw, Spillane. Subs: Gallacher, Cave-Brown, Renton, Martin, Smart.
Brian Laws told the SWFC website:
‘Everyone wants to finish on a high and it was important that we got a win under our belts. It has been a great run, we took our first defeat in 12 games last week and we wanted to finish on a high. I said to the players: ‘We don’t want to be waiting three months for our next win,’ because that’s how long we will have to wait until next season.
‘We went out and engaged Norwich early on and got into a cracking run of goals, particularly Jermaine Johnson’s, who took his goal well and was a real thorn in their sides all afternoon; he set the tone of the game.
Peter Grant told the NCFC website:
‘We left ourselves too much to do after the first half. We struggled with the conditions and struggled again with the officials when some of the decisions again didn’t go for us at big times.
‘It’s a big point of the game because he’s through on goal, but it’s the fact they went up the other end and scored so I was very, very disappointed. Some of the decisions were awful.’