Bruce lauds Wednesday players for bouncing back from first defeat of his tenure

Steve Bruce hailed Sheffield Wednesday’s character after they responded to the first defeat of his time in charge with a 3-0 victory over Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough.

Two stoppage-time goals saw the Owls slip to a 3-1 home defeat against Aston Villa on Saturday following a two-month unbeaten run, but a Marco Matias brace and George Boyd’s fine strike kept their Sky Bet Championship play-off aspirations intact.

Injury forced Bruce to make four changes and he felt his side responded well given the absence of key midfield pair Sam Hutchinson and Barry Bannan.

“Considering the problems we had – losing a couple of midfield players and enforced to make four changes – I’m delighted,” he said.

“I’m delighted for the lads that came in; they’ve worked extremely hard.

“We didn’t deserve what happened on Saturday and all of the squad have done fantastically well.

“There’s a good spirit amongst them at the minute.”

The result leaves Wednesday four points off the top six and when asked about a promotion push, Bruce added: “Unfortunately games are running out but we’ve still got a bit to play for and who knows?”

The home side almost took an early lead when Matias’ fifth-minute cross from the right found Lucas Joao, whose header was clawed away by Luke Steele.

At the other end Joe Lolley saw a 30-yard effort whistle wide before testing Keiren Westwood with a free-kick.

Steven Fletcher’s 31st-minute effort from the edge of the penalty box deflected wide, and from the resulting corner Steele produced a superb save to deny Matias.

Lolley found himself in space two minutes later but the ball was smothered by Westwood before he could get a shot away, and Lewis Grabban shanked wastefully wide from 20 yards when a defensive mix-up left him and Lolley two-on-one with Michael Hector.

The best chance of the opening period came two minutes before half-time, when Fletcher headed Matias’ cross over from six yards.

Two minutes after the restart Portuguese forward Matias put the hosts ahead with a 30-yard effort which caught Steele unaware.

Wednesday doubled their lead after 58 minutes when Joao flicked a hopeful long ball into the path of Boyd, who rifled a left-foot volley across Steele and into the far corner of the net.

Matias put the game to bed midway though the second half as he rode one challenge and saw the ball fall kindly for him from Steele’s attempted save before tapping into an empty net.

The result continues Forest’s awful away record – they have not won in 13 on the road – and leaves their own promotion ambitions hanging by a thread.

Martin O’Neill made five changes of his own and admitted post-match that he had done so with half an eye on next season.

“Well beaten eventually but I thought we played exceptionally well first half, spurned some great chances and those come back to haunt you,” he said.

“We looked dangerous, we had a little bit of pace about us tonight but eventually you’ve got to put the ball in the net and we’ve found that difficult all season.

“I just wanted to see, with an eye to next season, a few players.”

Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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