Darren Moore praised his Sheffield Wednesday side for “getting the job done” as they booked their place in the Sky Bet League One play-offs with a stylish 4-1 win over Portsmouth.
A midweek victory at Fleetwood meant the Owls started the day fourth but still needing a win to guarantee a top-six finish.
That looked unlikely when George Hirst, a former Wednesday player and the son of Hillsborough great David, tapped in from Ronan Curtis’ cut-back in the fourth minute.
Moore’s side responded with goals from Lee Gregory, Saido Berahino, Jordan Storey and George Byers to set up a two-legged semi-final against Sunderland.
“I said to the boys today that it was about coming here and getting the job done but we knew we had a strong opposition,” said Moore.
“Some of our passing and movement was a bit erratic which you can understand with the magnitude of the game but once we settled down we could see clear pictures and see the areas we wanted to exploit.
“It could have been very, very difficult but every one of them to a man stuck together and they came through a tough afternoon.
“What I like is that from the start of the season the mindset and character of the players and supporters, there’s been a transformation happening here.
“It was a great response by everyone really (to going behind) and in the end I thought we deserved the win after a difficult start.”
The hosts dominated after going behind and were good value for Gregory’s 17th-minute equaliser from Marvin Johnson’s cross.
Gregory and Barry Bannan stung the palms of visiting goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu before Berahino put the hosts ahead in the 36th minute after Pompey failed to clear a corner.
Storey converted a low cross from former Pompey loanee Byers five minutes before the break.
Byers was denied after the break by Bazunu, and Portsmouth substitute Aiden O’Brien hit the post before Gregory’s audacious lob narrowly cleared the crossbar.
Sean Raggett had a header tipped onto the woodwork by Bailey Peacock-Farrell with 15 minutes remaining and the Northern Ireland keeper denied Hirst a second with a point-blank save before Byers nodded home a late corner.
While Wednesday are still in contention for a swift return to the second tier, Portsmouth face a 10th season in the bottom two divisions of the EFL after finishing 10th.
“We’re disappointed,” said manager Danny Cowley. “It was a soft performance from us.
“We were in a good place, the first 20 mins we had good control but I want to credit Sheffield Wednesday. They’re a top team at this level, they should never be playing in League One.
“They’ve got an athleticism and power that’s the best in the division. Once they got the first goal and the momentum we found it difficult.”
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