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18:11 2th January 2012

Owls back into second

Sheffield Wednesday advanced back into the automatic promotion places with a 2-1 win over Tranmere.

Early strikes from Reda Johnson and Chris Lines were enough to beat the Wirral side, who barely launched a threat on Nicky Weaver's goal until a late header from Ian Goodison halved the arrears for a result that hardly reflected what was largely a one-sided contest in S6.

Wednesday dominated from the first whistle, creating a raft of chances that could and should have made the scoreline more emphatic.

But the points were stored and the Owls - in front of a crowd of 24,254 - moved into second place in League 1 as a result.

Wednesday went into the game armed with the knowledge that 13 of their last 23 games will unfold at Hillsborough and set out to make that advantage count against Rovers.

With Clinton Morrison making his first start since mid-September, the experienced striker was also aiming to capitalise and he played a key role as Wednesday found the target inside two minutes.

Owls v Tranmere

Morrison helped win a free kick on the edge of the area, from which the ball fell to Lines, whose accurate feed into the box was duly headed home by the onrushing Johnson.

It was a dream start for the Owls and with city rivals United having conceded at Carlisle, perhaps the omens were pointing to a memorable day for Gary Megson's men.

And things got even better on seven minutes when Lines doubled the lead.

James Tavernier turned his man down the right channel of the penalty area and crossed low for Lines to calmly slot past Paul Rachubka and into the Kop net.

The campaign, though, had already taken plenty of twists and turns and the fact that Sheffield United equalised at Brunton Park almost exactly as Lines converted only underlined the likelihood of many more to come.

The Owls continued to press and Danny Batth, who scored his first goal for the club at Preston 48 hours earlier, came within a whisker of getting something on Ben Marshall's inswinging corner - just before news filtered through of Carlisle restoring their advantage at Brunton Park.

Morrison then broke down the right and played a delicious ball to the back post for Marshall to swivel and fire into the side netting.

The pressure was relentless and only a smart stop from Rachubka prevented Morrison getting on the scoresheet. Chris O'Grady shot agonisingly wide from the resulting rebound.

Morrison went closer still shortly before the break when Jose Semedo slotted the striker in on goal but again Rachubka was alert to the danger and was out swiftly to parry to safety.

Owls v Tranmere

O'Grady had another effort saved by Rachubka right on the whistle, while United equalised at Carlisle to ensure the heat stayed on for both Sheffield clubs in their respective second halves.

With the opening 45 at Hillsborough seeing the Owls as dominant in S6 as they have been all season, it was important to keep Tranmere at arm's length.

And this they did, with only Rachubka and a linesman's flag preventing a 3-0 lead in an action-packed 54th minute.

First Marshall jinked his way into the box and drilled in a fierce shot that Rachubka tipped over the bar and when the ball eventually found its way to Johnson at the back post, the defender's headed goal was ruled out for an infringement.

Carlisle's third goal did count, though, allowing the Owls to leapfrog the Blades if the scores stayed the same.

Sanchez Watt came off the bench for Morrison and the loanee forward went close to securing the points but his low drive was deflected wide.

Tranmere rallied towards the end and got their reward eight minutes from time when Danny Holmes sent a teasing cross into the danger zone that was neatly headed in by substitute Ian Goodison.

Skipper Mark McChrystal forced a fine save from Weaver at the death but that proved the last of the action as Wednesday held on for victory.

Wednesday: Weaver, Otsemobor, Llera, Batth, R Johnson, Tavernier J Johnson 87), Lines, Semedo, Marshall (Prutton 90), Morrison (Watt 70), O'Grady

Unused substitutes: Bywater, Lowe

Tranmere: Rachubka, McChrystal,Weir, Holmes, Bakayogo (Goodison 77), Taylor, Baxter, Buchanan, Tiryaki (Welsh 46) Akins, Labadie

Unused substitutes:
Coughlin, McGurk, Raven

    Data provided by Press Association


    For the first 50 years of their existence, England played their home matches all around the country.