Date: 4th May 2008 at 7:22pm
Written by:

Wednesday came from a goal behind to maintain their Championship status with relative ease against Norwich City on Sunday in front of the Championship’s biggest crowd of the season.

Darren Huckerby had given the visitors the early advantage as Wednesday had to better either Leicester or Southampton to stay up, but a brace from Deon Burton and goals for Ben Sahar and Leon Clarke saw Wednesday run out comprehensive winners.

And the victory saw Wednesday leap up to their highest position in months up to 16th thanks to results elsewhere.

Owls’ boss Brian Laws made just the one forced change to the side that picked up a vital win at Leicester last week, with Lee Bullen unable to start in what would be his final match for the club, giving Jermaine Johnson the chance to start at right-back.

The visitors had nothing but pride to play for, although Dion Dublin was playing his last match before retirement, and was keen to bow out with a win and a goal.

Wednesday boss Laws revealed that he didn’t want to be relying on results elsewhere to help the Owls survive, and the hosts certainly got off to the brighter start after being greeted in to Hillsborough by a full house, and a see of blue and white cards on the north stand.

And Franck Songo’o duly obliged to the frantic start by the fans by putting in a dangerous low cross which just evaded the on-rushing Bartosz Slusarski, who was keen to carry on from his top-drawer performance at the Walkers Stadium last week.

But in Dublin and Darren Huckerby, Norwich have two players who’ve experienced life at the top level and could create something from nothing, and the latter duly did just eight minutes in to the clash.

Former Leeds United and Coventry man Huckerby came inside from the left-wing and put an unstoppable effort in to the top corner of Lee Grant’s goal to give the visitors the early advantage.

And when the goal should have acted as a wake-up sign for the hosts, Wednesday’s nerves continued to show and they were unlucky not to find themselves two down just minutes later as Grant once again came to the rescue of the Owls.

Some sloppy defending at the back saw Matty Pattison unmarked in the middle of the box, only to see his sliced effort well saved by the Owls’ number one for a corner.

Nerves continued to get the better of Wednesday, especially in defence, and Dublin could well have crowned his final game with a goal on 20 minutes as the Owls struggled to deal with his aerial presence.

But Wednesday were given a lifeline when Deon Burton broke free of the Norwich defence and was tripped inside the box by Jason Shackell, giving the referee no option other than to point to the spot – Burton not hesitating to step up despite his miss at Leicester last week.

And the Owls’ hitman coolly slotted the ball in to the back of the net to give Hillsborough a huge lift and see a fresh confidence coming from the players.

Both sides had chances before the half-time interval to go in to the lead, but the best of those chances probably fell to the feet of Slusarski who dragged his shot wide of David Marshall’s goal when he should have done better.

Half-Time: Wednesday 1-1 Norwich

Although the first chance fell to the visitors as Pattison sent his effort way over the bar, it was Laws who was celebrating when Ben Sahar glanced Wednesday in to the lead on 53 minutes.

The impressive Slusarski was left unmarked down the left flanked and he sent in a pin-point cross for the Chelsea loanee to put by Marshall and turn the game on its head in front of a delighted Kop.

Laws sent on some fresh legs in the second half with Sean McAllister coming on to replace Steve Watson and Graham Kavanagh replacing Franck Songo’o, with Adam Bolder moving on to the right wing.

Sahar has made a big impressive during his loan spell at S6, scoring some vital goals for the club, and the goal clearly gave him the confidence to turn his marker on the edge of the box and fire another effort over the bar as Wednesday continued to press forward for further goals.

The game was all about Wednesday maintaining their Championship status, but when Dion Dublin made way in his final appearance, the Owls’ fans joined in en masse to give the former Manchester United and Coventry City man the reception he deserved.

And there was even more reason to cheer minutes later as Wednesday all but made sure of their Championship status as Tommy Spurr provided another top drawer cross after a typically determined run down the left to give Burton the chance to head in his second and Wednesday’s third of the match.

With Leicester tied with Stoke, Owls fans knew their survival was almost complete, prompting a conga in the Kop and chants of ‘we are staying up’ around S6.

Leon Clarke was introduced to the clash in place of Sahar, and he carried on where he left off at Leicester last week by bagging the Owls’ fourth of the afternoon to let the Hillsborough carnival begin.

Full-Time: Wednesday 4-1 Norwich

Wednesday: Grant, Johnson, Wood, Beevers, Spurr, Sahar (Clarke 82), Bolder, Watson (Kavanagh 55), Songo’o (McAllister 55), Burton, Slusarski. Unused substitutes: Burch, Esajas.

Norwich: Marshall, Otsemobor (Pearce 74), Shackell, Bertrand, Russell, Fotheringham, Pattison (Croft 59), Huckerby, Dublin, Evans, Doherty. Unused substitutes: Rudd, Chadwick, Cureton.