Two late goals from Conor Hourihane and Robert Snodgrass saw Aston Villa come back from behind twice to pick up a 4-2 victory over Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough.
Both sides saw some changes to their starting elevens from midweek. Steve Bruce made three changes from his side’s 1-1 draw with Preston in Elmohamaday, Whelan and Grabban coming into the side. Meanwhile, Jos Luhukay made five changes, with Nuhiu, Joao, Reach, Pudil and Clare starting the game.
Aston Villa started the game the brighter of the two sides. Robert Snodgrass and Josh Onomah teamed up well and had two penalty appeals turned down inside the first ten minutes.
Sheffield Wednesday kept their heads up despite the early pressure. Jack Hunt whipped in a delightful ball and captain Adam Reach was unlucky to see his header float wide of the left-hand post.
Wednesday continued this pressure and took a surprising lead. George Boyd crossed in from the left, which was chested down by Nuhiu to Sean Clare who volleyed smartly into the bottom corner.
Buoyed by their opening goal, the Owls pushed on for a second. The ball fell kindly to Adam Reach just outside the penalty area, but the midfielder couldn’t keep his shot on target.
However, it was Aston Villa that showed why they have been pushing for promotion all season. A Hourihane free-kick was met powerfully by John Terry, with Scott Hogan unable to put away the rebound. Lewis Grabban followed in from behind to stick the ball into the net to score his second goal since signing from Sunderland in January.
George Boyd continued to be a threat down the left-flank for Wednesday. His cross to Joao saw another header just fall off-target for the home side.
Joe Wildsmith was kept busy as a good Hogan header from distance was caught well by the keeper.
The game was held tightly in the balance on the half-hour mark as a scorching shot from Jack Hunt won Wednesday a corner. Nuhiu was unlucky to not to find the target from the resulting corner.
Approaching half-time Clare won another corner for his side. George Boyd saw his low driven effort hit the post and somehow Wednesday were unable to bundle the ball over the line. Boyd was involved again moments later in a penalty shout that was not given by referee Neil Swarbrick.
It was an end-to-end affair with Alan Hutton finding Robert Snodgrass in the box, whose header was a poor effort and straight at Joe Wildsmith.
Into added time Clare won yet another corner for Wednesday with a half-volley. Reach’s corner was firmly met by Joao to ensure his side went into half-time in the lead.
The second-half took some time to get going. Villa were forced to make an early second half change as Alan Hutton was forced off through injury.
Chances were few and far between with Pelupessy’s seeing his effort sail over the crossbar on 62 minutes.
Aston Villa pulled level on 67 minutes. A cross from Snodgrass was met at the far post by Whelan to give the Villains new hope.
In the 75th minute, Reach won a corner for his side. Joao’s header hit the post and Nuhiu in and amongst the bodies couldn’t quite divert the ball towards goal.
John Terry fell asleep at the back and allowed Nuhiu in on goal, but his strike was met low by Johnstone in goal.
Michael Fox had gifted Aston Villa a corner with ten minutes to go, but Snodgrass’ delivery was poor and saved the Owls from embarrassment.
Steve Bruce brought on Jedinak with seven minutes to go. The substitute almost made an instant impact and headed over from a Snodgrass free-kick.
In the final five minutes of the game, an Aston Villa corner fell to Conor Hourihane inside the penalty box and he made no mistake to fire it passed Wildsmith.
Aston Villa rubbed salt in the wounds as they were awarded a penalty in the dying moments. Robert Snodgrass, who probably deserved a goal for his performance made no mistake from the penalty spot, despite Wildsmith getting a hand on it.
Ultimately, it was an exceptionally unlucky result for the Owls who had fought throughout the game to take the lead twice.
Sheffield Wednesday: Wildsmith, Hunt, Fox, Nuhiu, Joao, Reach (c), Boyd, Pelupessy, Pudil, Clare, Venancio
Aston Villa: Johnstone, Chester, Whelan, Snodgrass, Hogan (Jedinak 83’), Hourihane, Onomah (Davis 60’), Hutton (Taylor 51’), Terry (c), Elmohamaday, Grabban
Referee: Neil Swarbrick
Bookings: Sheffield Wednesday: Pelupessy, Boyd
HT Score: 2-1
FT Score: 2-4
Man of the Match: Sean Clare