Massimo Luongo’s second-half strike made all the difference as Sheffield Wednesday fought hard to secure a 1-0 home win against strugglers Wigan.
The Owls jump above Charlton to eigth place in the Championship and sit just three points off the top. Meanwhile, Wigan remain nineteenth, though will count themselves lucky not to drop further down the table after seven of the Championship’s bottom nine also lost this weekend.
Wednesday had two chances early on, with Adam Reach hitting the side netting in the fourth minute following a drilled cross from Kadeem Harris. Just two minutes later, Steven Fletcher shot just wide after cleverly navigating a pocket of space in box.
Wigan were almost handed a breakthrough when Wednesday’s Joey Pelupessy cheaply gave away the ball inside his own half, allowing the Latics to break.
Despite three quickfire shots inside the penalty area they were unable to capitalise, with Gavin Massey firing the final effort just wide of Keiren Westwood’s net.
Wednesday responded with a spell of dominance on the ball that lasted for the rest of the half, but despite winning the battle for possession, they were unable to turn it into anything substantial.
Their best chance came when Barry Bannan attempted an audacious curler from 20 yards out, striking the edge of Wigan’s far post.
The half-time whistle put an end to a rather drab 45 minutes, with a distinct lack of clear-cut chances causing frustration for Garry Monk’s side.
A second-half tactical change saw Massimo Luongo move further up the pitch as the Owls’ formation changed from a 4-2-3-1 to a more attacking 4-1-4-1.
A subtle alteration proved a decisive one just before the hour mark, when Adam Reach’s cutback inside the box found the marauding Luongo, who looked up at goal before carefully placing his shot past goalkeeper David Marshall.
Wednesday had enjoyed the majority of possession by this point, and finally made it count with their first shot on target.
Despite being forced to defend for much of the game, Wigan did not lose hope in a result.
Their efforts almost came to fruition when substitute Kieffer Moore’s header was tipped onto the bar by Westwood following an excellent free-kick delivery by Charlie Mulgrew.
Controversy then struck in the 73rd minute when Steven Fletcher appeared to have put away a poacher’s effort from two yards out following a rebound.
However, the veteran hitman then threw his head back in anger as his celebration was met with an offside flag.
Replays showed very close margins between Fletcher and the Wigan defence and Wednesday fans will be disappointed with officials for not putting their side two goals to the good.
Special credit should be given to Wednesday’s midfield, who worked hard all game in both creating chances and tracking back in defence, even throughout the latter stages of the game.
Wigan made three attacking substitutions and committed plenty forward towards the end, but were unable to break through, and a great roar reverberated around Hillsborough as referee Lee Mason called time on a scrappy affair.
Manager Garry Monk was pleased with his team’s response in the second half, recognising the importance of a balance between retaining possession and getting the ball into dangerous spaces, something his side had lacked in the first 45 minutes.
“In terms of the game itself I think the problem in the first half was structurally we were fine, but I felt we weren’t playing with that tempo and urgency that we needed.”
“I said to the players at half-time in those moments we need to quicken the game up, we’re at home so we need to show more urgency in those moments to get the game restarted and going quicker and that then allows you to have a better tempo in the game.”
“I thought in the first 20 minutes of the second half that’s exactly what we did, we managed to score a good goal in that moment. We had an opportunity to score a second which I’m told is very marginal and unlucky not to have that and then we saw the game out well.”
“Wigan are a good team, they fight and they’re competitive. We needed to compete in the middle of the park today, and it’s the third game in a week so I wanted to put that energy in the middle of the pitch to give us that foothold in the game and I think we did that overall.”
Sheffield Wednesday: Westwood; Odubajo, Iorfa, Börner, Palmer; Pelupessy; Reach (Murphy, 80′), Luongo (Lee, 75′), Bannan, Harris; Fletcher (Nuhiu, 89′). Subs not used: Dawson, Fox, Thorniley, Winnall.
Wigan: Marshall; Byrne, Dunkley, Mulgrew, Robinson; Williams, Morsy; Massey (Pilkington, 64′), Windass, Lowe (78′); Garner (Moore, 64′). Subs not used: Jones, Fox, Evans, Naismith
Referee: Lee Mason
Bookings: Sheffield Wednesday: Moses Odubajo (Yellow card, 40′)
Wigan: Sam Morsy (Yellow card, 62′)
Scorers: Sheffield Wedneday: Massimo Luongo (57′)
HT: 0 – 0
FT: 1 – 0
Man of the Match: Julian Börner