League One leaders Charlton, became the first team to win at Hillsborough this season as they cemented their lead at the top of League One with an efficient victory over a lacklustre Wednesday. It took a moment of class from Charlton captain Johnnie Jackson as his direct free kick proved the difference between the two sides following an insipid affair.
With a crowd of over 26,000 at Hillsborough and top scorer Gary Madine returning from injury for the Owls, expectations were high that an entertaining game would take place. What ensued, however, was certainly not a great advert for League One football between two sides baying for promotion to the Championship. The Owls had the majority of the early possession but failed to create anything and soon opted to play long balls football in search of Madine, who was returning following 2 months out with a broken toe, and Chris O’Grady.
It was Charlton front man Bradley Wright-Phillips who had the first chance as he beat his man down the right only to see his shot saved low down by Nicky Weaver in the Wednesday goal. The Owls then had a fine chance when O’Grady somehow turned his defender down the left and squared the ball for Chris Lines, but with the goal beckoning his shot was well saved by Ben Hamer.
The decisive moment in the contest came in the 28th minute as Reda Johnson clattered into Bradley Pritchard 20 yards from goal, allowing Jackson a sight at goal. He needed no more invitation as he curled an exquisite free kick over the wall and into the top left of Weaver’s goal.
It was a moment of class in an otherwise low quality first half. Madine did have the ball in the net just before half time following a long ball, only for it to be ruled out by the linesman’s flag and the Addicks headed into the break one goal to the good.
Wednesday attacked right from the off in the second half but should have been further behind within the first five minutes as Wright-Phillips raced clear on a Charlton counter attacked. Wright-Phillips beat Rob Jones to the ball and went through on goal only to fire straight into Weaver’s arms.
The Owls continued their aerial assault but Chris Powell’s side were more than capable and showed why they are key contenders for promotion at the top with an excellent defensive performance. As the game headed to a close substitute Clinton Morrison had a shot cleared off the line by Charlton skipper Jackson in injury time as Wednesday tried to pile on the pressure.
But it wasn’t to be for Gary Megson’s men who now drop into fourth place and four points away from the automatic promotion slot that their city rivals Sheffield United hold. For Charlton, it was another excellent defensive performance that formed the base for a hard fought victory and they remain four points clear at the top.