Sheffield Wednesday 1 Oxford United 2
Saturday 2 October 2022
Simon Inglis describes visiting Hillsborough as “one of the quintessential joys of English sport”. We hadn’t been for some time and a trip here felt overdue; there was further novelty value in watching Wednesday play third-tier football, something which (despite their recent spell in this division) I last saw happen over forty years ago.
Bizarre consumer paranoia had seen fuel pumps besieged by wild-eyed panic buyers throughout the previous week. We therefore avoided Hyde Road – congested anyway, but now offering the added disadvantage of two petrol stations practically opposite one another – and instead met up near Stalybridge Celtic’s ground. From there it was a scenic hop, skip and jump along Woodhead Pass into Stocksbridge; our long run downhill towards Hillsborough was lined with well-stocked garages completely lacking customers.
Flesh and wine
There are three decent pubs around the site of Wadsley Bridge station. Two – from which away fans were traditionally ambushed as they got off their train – admit visitors these days, but we parked behind Fox Hill Mill and settled happily into the Pheasant’s less inclusive public bar. This comes complete with Wednesday artefacts and Hillsborough frieze; it also offered darts, good ale, friendly barmaids and a 100lb meat raffle.
Our food stop of choice would normally be the Vere Road chippy, but we had stayed drinking too long and now needed to decide between chips or kick-off. Luckily our seats beside some side stairs meant I could easily nip out for pies; this did, however, mean getting soaked all over again queuing at an old-school open air kiosk behind the Kop.
Plenty more travelling fans were new to Hillsborough. The West Stand’s upper tier held a good couple of thousand who had come to watch their club’s first League match here since 1991. They were soon celebrating as Marvin Johnson’s fumbling on half-way allowed Herbie Kane to set Cameron Brannagan clear. He finished confidently past snappily-named but badly-positioned Wednesday ‘keeper, Bailey Peacock-Farrell.
Peacock-Farrell did better to keep out Matty Taylor shortly afterwards; his opposite number Jack Stevens also saved well from Barry Bannan. Increased Wednesday pressure after the break saw Saido Berahino head against the post and an equaliser soon followed, Callum Paterson leaping like the proverbial salmon to bulge Oxford’s net most satisfactorily from Johnson’s deep cross.
The home team looked increasingly dangerous so that should really have been it. But Oxford held on to grab an injury time winner through James Henry’s opportunistic turn and flick in a crowded box, with Bannan’s even later deflected drive onto their bar no more than inspired frustration. Fans around us were incensed; Wednesday had just seen a blatant penalty denied, despite the linesman’s excellent view of Jack Hunt being brought down.
Teams and goals
Sheffield Wednesday: Peacock-Farrell, Palmer, Iorfa, Dunkley, Johnson, Adeniran, Wing (Dele-Bashiru 67), Bannan, Paterson, Shodipo (Sow 61), Gregory (Berahino 46). Unused subs: Wildsmith, Brown, Hunt, Corbeanu.
Oxford: Stevens, Long, Moore, Thorniley, Seddon, Branagan, Gorrin, Kane (Henry 58), Holland, Taylor (Agyei 70), Forde (Williams 84). Unused subs: Eastwood, McNally, Mousinho, Cooper.
Goals: Sheffield Wednesday: Paterson 73. Oxford: Brannagan 12, Henry 93.