Aston Villa’s Tammy Abraham rubs salt in Sheffield Wednesday’s wounds

Dean Smith’s late introduction of Albert Adomah proved inspired as the Aston Villa substitute put his side ahead three minutes into added time before Tammy Abraham’s 95th-minute goal confirmed they would move into fifth place.

They are three points clear of Derby, who remain a place outside the play-off positions, while for Sheffield Wednesday defeat was a sizeable blow, leaving them six points and places from sixth-placed Bristol City.

At the close delirious Villa fans sang: “Brucey, Brucey, what’s the score,” to taunt their former manager, whose side – until Villa’s late rally – appeared the likelier to claim victory, with Steven Fletcher missing a second-half penalty.

Steve Bruce’s reign at Villa Park ended last October, when he was sacked the day after infamously having a cabbage thrown at him during a 3-3 draw with Preston North End. He admitted this history made losing even worse. “They keep regurgitating it,” he said of the abuse he still receives from Villa fans. “With the spice of being against Aston Villa it’s always [more] disappointing.”

This was the visitors’ sixth consecutive win and Smith said: “Hopefully they don’t feel invincible now but it’s given us a big boost going into a three-game week.”

Wednesday started the game unbeaten since Bruce took over at the start of February, and their hopes of victory rose early when George Boyd slid in a ball no defender could clear, Gary Hooper scoring in only his second appearance this season because of injury.

Their lead lasted only a quarter of an hour. After Tyrone Mings needed lengthy treatment for a knock, the central defender continued and Villa struck via his long ball. Andre Green flipped in a cross from the right byline for John McGinn to hit a sweet finish beyond Keiren Westwood, McGinn’s sixth goal this term.

With each side playing four at the back and in midfield – Villa had their captain Jack Grealish just behind lone striker Abraham – at this juncture the contest was open. Dominic Iorfa, the Owls right-back, gave an illustration when causing chaos for Villa with a cross that Kortney Hause eventually scrambled out.

The rest of the first half was uneventful. A Villa mistake allowed Hooper to find Fletcher and his effort deflected for a corner but nothing came of it, moments before Oliver Langford blew for the break.

Steven Fletcher sees his penalty saved by Jed Steer
Steven Fletcher (left) sees his penalty saved by Jed Steer. Photograph: Matt West/BPI/Rex/Shutterstock

Proceedings being level as the second half started felt appropriate, with each team knowing they should push for victory to press their end-of-season claims. However, a stoppage for treatment to Fletcher disrupted any initial rhythm and, when Green won a corner, McGinn trotted over to take it but could find only Westwood’s hands.

From a Wednesday free-kick Barry Bannan – the Scotland midfielder who would later go off with what Bruce said was a “nicked hamstring” – did not manage much better, spraying his delivery out. The No 10 did, at least, threaten Jed Steer’s goal with a curled effort moments afterwards, but it still went wide.

Then came Wednesday’s costly penalty miss. Mings needlessly took out Fletcher as the Scot ran across him. The referee, Oliver Langford, booked Mings but Steer dived left to repel Fletcher’s effort.

Soon Boyd was holding his head after missing from close range. Bruce’s men were knocking on the door – in two goalmouth scrambles Steer was shaky – but Villa held on before going up the other end and performing their late show.