A brilliant strike from Barry Bannan and a late winner from Atdhe Nuhiu secured Sheffield Wednesday’s place in the fourth round of the FA Cup after the Owls beat Fulham for the third time this season at Hillsborough this afternoon.
A scowling Slavisa Jokanovic is quickly coming to terms with the size of the task he has inherited at Craven Cottage. Beaten by a wondergoal from Ross Wallace in his first game in charge last week, the Serbian watched his new charges dominate for large sections of the contest in south Yorkshire but fall behind to another bolt from the blue – this time from Scottish playmaker Bannan, whose powerful 25-yarder cannoned in off the crossbar.
Although Fulham equalised straight from the restart through Moussa Dembele, who had replaced an injured Cauley Woodrow after 25 minutes, they were not able to go ahead despite regularly testing Joe Wildsmith in the Wednesday goal. The youngster’s excellent display was a fitting tribute for former Owls keeper Pavel Srineck, who was remembered with a minutes’ applause before kick off, after his funeral was held earlier in the week.
Given the way the Whites’ season has gone, there was an inevitability about the Wednesday winner after Dembele had missed two great chances to put Fulham in front. Austrian striker Nuhiu made his mark just twelve minutes after Carlos Carvahal made a bold decision to take off centre back Modou Songou. The tall forward drove the winner into the bottom corner from just outside the box with a first time finish to punish Jazz Richards’ poor clearing header.
His strike, that bounced down into the ground and past the diving Andy Lonergan, wasn’t quite of the same quality as Bannan’s blistering first half effort but together they ensured that the Whites were knocked out of the world’s oldest club cup competition at the first opportunity. Anyone suggesting that might not be a bad thing to allow Fulham to focus on preserving their place in the Championship would have got short shrift from Jokanovic.
The Serbian, eager to record a first win in charge and avenge last week’s narrow league defeat, punched the air after Dembele levelled proceedings from close range only 70 seconds after Fulham had gone behind. The Frenchman followed up to finish after Ross McCormack’s drive was blocked on the line – but he couldn’t convert a couple of great chances after the interval, which allowed cult hero Nuhiu to take all the plaudits.
SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY (4-4-2): Wildsmith; Palmer, Pudil, Loovens, Songou (Nuhiu 59); Lee, Sasso, Lopez (Helan 45), Bannan; Joao, Wallace (Helan 77). Subs (not used): Price, Wiggins, Hunt, Bus.
GOALS: Bannan (42), Nuhiu (73).
FULHAM (4-4-2): Lonergan; Richards, Garbutt (Ream 71), Hutchinson, Burn; O’Hara, Christensen, Cairney, Kacaniklic (Matilla 71); McCormack, Woodrow (Dembele 25). Subs (not used): Lewis, Stearman, Pringle, Smith.
GOAL: Dembele (43).
REFEREE: Gavin Ward (Surrey).