Whelan and Hourihane engineer Villa comeback
Irish duo were both on the scoresheet in dramatic late turnaround to beat Wednesday
Conor Hourihane hammers home to put Aston Villa 3-2 ahead during their Championship encounter with Sheffield Wednesday. Photo: Neville Williams/Getty Images
Sheffield Wednesday 2 Aston Villa 4
Aston Villa kept their chances of gaining automatic promotion alive after two late goals saw them beat Sheffield Wednesday 4-2.
Wednesday went ahead early on courtesy of Sean Clare’s first senior goal for the club. Villa hit back quickly through on-loan striker Lewis Grabban but the home side were on top again before the break, when Lucas Joao headed home.
Glenn Whelan levelled the game on his return to Hillsborough and then Conor Hourihane and Robert Snodgrass (penalty) scored to seal victory.
It was a lively start to the game and Clare broke the deadlock in the 14th minute. The young midfielder struck a sweet strike into the bottom left corner first time from Atdhe Nuhiu’s chested pass, to finish off a great counter-attacking move.
The lead did not last as Villa showed why they are in the hunt for automatic promotion. Captain John Terry had a header saved well by goalkeeper Joe Wildsmith, who then reacted quickly to save again at point-blank range from Scott Hogan.
The danger still was not cleared and Grabban was looming to tap in his 14th league goal of the season in the 21st minute.
The in-form Joao, Clare and Nuhiu went close to scoring before a well-worked short corner came frustratingly close to being a goal for George Boyd. The wing-back received the ball in space just outside the area and his effort came off the post and hit keeper Sam Johnstone.
Boyd was in the thick of the action and exhibited some fancy footwork to dribble into the Villa box before going to ground but referee Neil Swarbrick denied him a penalty.
After all the short corners taken by the Owls, it was a simple one whipped in by Reach that Joao headed brilliantly past Johnstone to put them in front on the stroke of half-time.
Wednesday were made to pay when they left Snodgrass too much time to pick out a cross, and former-Wednesday man Whelan headed in his first goal for Villa from inside the six-yard box in the 67th minute to level the score.
The tie burst into life again with 15 minutes left on the clock, Frederico Venancio hitting the post and Joao having a shot cleared off the line in a scramble inside the Villa six-yard box. Nuhiu was also denied by a fine Johnstone save moments later and at the other end James Chester headed inches over the bar.
In a sickening blow for the home side, Hourihane then put Villa ahead for the first time in the game with three minutes left on the clock, shooting with his first touch and placing it perfectly through the crowded box into the bottom left corner.
Snodgrass scored from the spot in stoppage time to compound the home team’s misery, as Swarbrick awarded a penalty for a Venancio foul on the spot-kick taker.
Meanwhile, fourth-placed Derby drew 3-3 at Reading after Jon Dadi Bodvarsson netted a late equaliser for the hosts.
Despite Kasey Palmer firing Derby into an early lead, Reading went ahead through goals from Liam Kelly and Mo Barrow.
County responded either side of half-time through Richard Keogh and Tom Lawrence, only for Bodvarsson to grab an equaliser 10 minutes from time before Chris Baird was sent off for the visitors.
Callum McManaman denied Middlesbrough the chance to leapfrog Bristol City into sixth place as Sunderland drew an ill-tempered thriller 3-3 at the Stadium of Light.
Relegation-threatened Sunderland led 1-0 at half-time after an opening 45 minutes which saw Joel Asoro score before Jake Clarke-Salter and Adama Traore were sent off to leave the contest 10-a-side.
First-half substitute Jonny Williams levelled for Sunderland after Patrick Bamford and a Grant Leadbitter penalty put Boro ahead, but Bamford put Boro ahead in the 68th minute.
That was until McManaman netted the equaliser in the sixth minute of stoppage time.
Sunderland remain rooted to the bottom of the table, four points adrift of safety, while fellow strugglers Birmingham and Burton also lost.
Oli McBurnie scored twice and missed a penalty as Barnsley moved out of the drop zone with a 2-0 victory at Birmingham.
Ben Marshall’s second-half goal condemned Burton to a 1-0 defeat at home to Millwall.
Mustapha Carayol netted the winner as Preston’s play-off push stuttered with a 1-0 defeat to Ipswich at Deepdale.
Liam Cooper’s first-half header gave Leeds a 1-0 home win over Brentford, earning Paul Heckingbottom his first victory as head coach, while Norwich and Bolton drew 0-0 at Carrow Road.
Lee Tomlin netted twice as Nottingham Forest won 5-2 away at QPR.
Joe Lolley, Matty Cash and Ben Brereton also scored for the visitors, meaning goals from Massimo Luongo and Matt Smith were nothing more than consolations for QPR.