Sheffield Wednesday moved out of the drop on goal difference with a scrappy 2-0 over bottom of the league Wycombe Wanderers, courtesy of a first goal at Hillsborough since 2017 for Jordan Rhodes and a deflected Adam Reach strike.
Wednesday have won five out of the seven Championship fixtures under caretaker manager Neil Thompson and bounced back in impressive fashion from the 4-1 hammering they suffered away at Millwall on Saturday.
Story of the game
This fixture at a freezing Hillsborough pitted the teams who, at the start of play, made up the bottom two of the Championship table. It was no surprise then, that the game was low on quality in the opening exchanges. Both sides were careful not to overstretch early on, setting the tone for what would be a cagey affair.
Callum Paterson was the first to test either goalkeeper, forcing a save on 18 minutes, forcing Ryan Allsop to palm over with a fierce strike on the half volley to end a flowing Wednesday move.
After a slow start for both sides, Wednesday were starting to impose themselves on the visitors, but Wycombe had the next chance of the game and it was a brilliant opportunity to take the lead. The Chairboys broke with real purpose from a Wednesday free kick on 24 minutes and Anis Mehmeti failed to convert from eight yards out after the centre from Daryl Horgan; firing wide under pressure from Kadeem Harris. There were very strong appeals for a penalty from Mehmeti and the Wycombe bench after Harris slid in and seemed to foul the Albanian as he challenged for the ball.
The Owls steadied themselves well after this and regained control of the game. Had it not been for the well placed Ryan Tafazolli Wednesday would have taken the lead on 32 minutes, the summer recruit from Hull City bravely headed off the line from a thunderous drive from Adam Reach that had Allsop beaten.
The pressure was mounting and it finally told two minutes later.
Reach's cross was only headed as far as Harris who picked out an unmarked Jordan Rhodes, starting for Wednesday for the first time since late November, who guided his header past a helpless Allsop into the far corner.
Wednesday seemed content to hold on to their lead as the game approached half time, allowing Wycombe back into the game. The visitors only managed one real effort as the half drew to a close, Adebayo Akinfenwa held off Osaze Urhoghide and forced Kieran Westwood into a save with a tame header for Wycombe's first shot on target of the night.
The second half began much like the first and it took until just before the hour mark for the first chance of the second half. Owls captain Barry Bannan found space with a clever touch and stung the palms of Allsop from a tight angle.
The game was put beyond doubt in the 76th minute after Adam Reach's shot for the edge of the box took a big deflection to wrong-foot Allsop and nestle in the corner. Harris was once again crucial in the build up, showing good skill before firing into Paterson who inadvertently diverted the ball into the path of Reach to slam into a crowded penalty area.
The snow became very heavy with around 10 minutes to go, making it very difficult for either side to gain any momentum. Both sides fashioned half chances as the game drew to a close but Wednesday held on for their third clean sheet in a row at home, leaving Wycombe in real trouble at the foot of the table.
Takeaways from the game
Wonderful Wednesday wing-backs
The Owls were very comfortable for large portions of the game and that was largely down to the excellent wing play of both Adam Reach and Kadeem Harris who provided an outlet when the centre of the pitch became congested and were extremely threatening going forward.
Both wing-backs were directly involved in a goal, Harris provided the dinked cross for Rhodes and Reach lashed home Wednesday's second albeit via a big deflection.
It has been well documented that the Owls do not have a natural left-back in the squad, following the departure of Morgan Fox to Stoke City, and the 5-3-2 formation that Wednesday have used under Thompson has masked this issue very well, allowing the more attacking Reach or Matt Penney to bomb on and be part of attacks.
Wycombe cut adrift
Gareth Ainsworth was in the Wycombe team the last time they visited Hillsborough in 2012. They lost 2-0 that day as well and the Chairboys manager will have been desperate for a different result from today's game. His team are now 12 points behind Wednesday on just 16 points from 27 games.
Other than Mehmeti's chance, they never really looked like scoring and will need a big improvement offensively if they are to pull off a miraculous escape from the drop zone.
Man of the match
It was under Garry Monk that Harris was first deployed as a wing-back and the former Wycombe player caused havoc time and again from that position against his boyhood team. Jordan Obita had a torrid time trying to mark Harris, who skipped past him at will throughout the evening.
He was instrumental in both goals for the Owls, finding Rhodes for the first and showing great skill to side-step his man in the build-up to the second.
Pace and trickery is not something that Wednesday have in abundance and Kadeem Harris will certainly be an important player in Wednesday's quest to avoid the drop.