Date: 10th August 2008 at 10:26am
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Wednesday returned to Championship action with a bang with a thumping victory over Burnley which sent them top of the league, for one week at least.

An early brace from Akpo Sodje and another double for Marcus Tudgay gave the Owls all three points from their opening fixture of the season and turn the tables on last season’s 4-1 reverse at Ipswich Town.

Owls boss Brian Laws gave a start to new boy and former Claret James O’Connor in the centre of midfield alongside Sean McAllister, while fellow new signing Jimmy Smith started on the bench after returning from injury in a behind-closed-doors clash in midweek.

For the visitors, former Wednesday loanee Chris Eagles returned to Hillsborough in attack for Burnley alongside Robbie Blake, but former Blade Ade Akinbiyi could only manage a place on the bench for the season opener.

For Wednesday, Laws will have been keen for his troops to get off to a rapid start following last season’s slow start which saw the Owls fail to take any points from their opening six matches of the season.

And they did just that – Marcus Tudgay offering the first shot of the match from the edge of the box and firing his effort in to the back of the net from a Burnley toe to give Wednesday the dream start they wanted after just 35 seconds.

There was no stopping there, with Wednesday continuing forward in search of more goals, and it came just three minutes later as some fine work from Deon Burton down the left put in Sodje who smashed home the Owls’ second on the half volley to give the Burnley stopper no chance.

Chants of ‘we are top of the league’ were ringing around Hillsborough early on, but those chants were soon dimmed down as former Scunthorpe man Martin Paterson, who enjoyed bagging against Wednesday for the Iron last season, arrived at the front post to steer home a Graham Alexander cross to leave the score at 2-1 after just six minutes of the new campaign.

The cost of season tickets may have gone up this season but the near 24,000 crowd were more than getting their money’s worth in the early exchanges, with the frantic pace continuing after Paterson had brought the Turf Moor club back in to the game.

To their credit, Burnley were more than playing their part in the game, with Chris Eagles causing the Wednesday defence problems in attack with his probing runs.

But Wednesday, probably surprisingly, never took their foot off the gas and they restored their two-goal lead just minutes later when Jermaine Johnson ran at the Clarets defence, twisting and turning, before scuppering his shot straight in to the path of Sodje who made no mistake from just yards out to bag his second, and Wednesday’s third of the match.

Sodje was in sensational form, giving Owls fans plenty of reasons to be cheerful for the season ahead, but that was soon to come to an end with the only sour point of the afternoon.

The former Port Vale man, who only just returned from injury in pre-season after missing the final few months of last season, pulled up with what looked like a hamstring injury after chasing down a loose ball and left the field after only 21 minutes.

Leon Clarke, himself in fine form during the close season, came on to replace Sodje, but without the powerful frontman, the Owls never looked the same going forward for the remainder of the match.

And with Wednesday looking less threatening in attack, Burnley were able to control possession for the remainder of the half, although the strong central defensive pairing of Mark Beevers and Richard Wood gave the visitors little in the way of chances before half-time.

Half-Time: Wednesday 3-1 Burnley

The start of the second half was never going to be as exciting as the opening to the first 45 minutes, but chances continued to come at either end as the attacking flair of both sides failed to dry up.

Leon Clarke had an early chance for Wednesday, while at the other end Chris McCann saw his goal-bound effort brilliantly turned away by Wednesday stopper Lee Grant as Burnley started to enjoy the majority of the possession with Wednesday deciding to sit back on their lead.

But despite the visitors controlling the ball, they never really looked like testing Grant again, and with Wednesday so dangerous on the break, it looked more likely that Laws’ men would add to their advantage than let Burnley back in to the game for a second time.

Former Leeds United man Robbie Blake did come close with a deflected free-kick which went inches wide of Grant’s goal, while Eagles continued to look like the most dangerous player for the Clarets.

But Wednesday all-but wrapped up the points against the run of play, Leon Clarke getting the ball inside the Clarets box and opting to lay Tudgay in for his second of the afternoon rather than take the effort himself.

With the game all-but won, Burnley began to get frustrated, and Wednesday were happy to sit back with the ‘top of the league’ chants ringing around Hillsborough once again.

Clarke did have a golden opportunity to make it a fantastic five for Wednesday, being put through one-on-one with the Burnley stopper but firing it straight at him.

And Tudgay had a chance of his hat-trick when his powerful effort was brilliantly saved by Penny from the edge of the box.

But the former Derby man, who also picked up the man-of-the-match honours, still had a huge grin on his face come the end of the match, with his two goals helping Wednesday to a superb start to the season.

Next up Wolves – time to make the most of it!

Full-Time: Wednesday 4-1 Burnley

Wednesday: Grant, Hinds, Wood (c), Beevers, Spurr, Johnson Smith (Smith 69), O’Connor (Watson 88) McAllister, Tudgay, Sodje (Clarke 22), Burton. Unused substitutes: O’Donnell, Esajas.

Burnley: Penny, Alexander, Duff, Caldwell (c), Paterson, Elliott, McCann, Blake (Akinbiyi 77), Jordan, van der Schaaf (Gudjonsson 59), Eagles. Unused substitutes: Jensen, Kalvenes, Mahon.