Wednesday moved onto level points with second-placed Ipswich after two Michael Smith goals saw us to a 2-0 win over Port Vale at Hillsborough this evening.
It was an improved performance from the Owls, particularly in the first half, and ourselves and Ipswich are now locked on 49 points with identical goal difference but the Tractor Boys are ahead in the table courtesy of having scored six more goals than us. Leaders Plymouth remain four points clear after their 1-0 win over Wycombe.
Barry Bannan sent an early chance over the bar after being set up by Smith’s header in the box and Smith was again the provider on 19 minutes but Callum Paterson saw his effort blocked.
There was an injury blow for Wednesday when Bannan pulled up with what looked like a recurrence of his hamstring injury and he had to make way for Will Vaulks after just 26 minutes.
However, we went ahead on the half-hour mark when Tom Conlon was adjudged to have handled Vaulks’ corner beyond the far post and Smith stepped up to hammer the penalty into the bottom corner of the Kop net.
Port Vale looked a threat at times on the break and wasted two chances in the closing minutes of the half, Ellis Harrison shooting wide after an error by George Byers and James Wilson not far off target from the edge of the penalty area.
Wednesday missed a good opportunity to go two-up on 54 minutes, Alex Mighten crossing for Smith after a good run but when the striker headed down, Vaulks failed to connect properly from eight yards.
Vale almost took advantage just after the hour when dangerous-looking sub, Sammy Robinson, teed up Harrison but he shot over from close range and that proved decisive with Wednesday – and Smith – netting a second goal on 70 minutes … and in some style.
The big striker surged clear down the left and cut inside before curling an excellent effort into the far corner of the net from 20 yards.
That strike largely put paid to any chance of a Vale fightback and Wednesday might have increased the lead in added time, Fisayo Dele-Bashiru volleying over from 12 yards, but settled for two goals and another three points as we stretched our unbeaten league run to 12 games.
Dawson, Palmer, McGuinness, James, Johnson, Byers (Adeniran 88), Bannan (Vaulks 25), Dele-Bashiru, Mighten (Hunt 71), Paterson, Smith. Unused subs: Stockdale, Famewo, Windass, Wilks. Att: 26,021.