Notts County are rapidly becoming Gary Madine’s favourite opponents.
The striker notched his third goal in as many meetings with the Magpies as Sheffield Wednesday cruised into the second round of the Capital One Cup last night.
Madine, Jacques Maghoma and Atdhe Nuhiu registered either side of the interval to seal back-to-back victories and clean sheets for Stuart Gray’s side.
Some of the football Wednesday produced, particularly in the opening half an hour, was simply exquisite and a joy to behold.
Gray promised he would field a strong starting line-up and he was true to his word, making only three alterations from Saturday’s excellent victory away at Brighton and Hove Albion. The Owls head coach gave run-outs to Chris Kirkland, Jose Semedo and Madine, opting to drop Keiren Westwood, Sam Hutchinson and Kieran Lee to the bench.
New striker Stevie May was forced to sit out the tie due to picking up two yellow cards in St Johnstone’s run to the Scottish Cup final last season.
It took Wednesday just one minute and 30 seconds to open the scoring through Maghoma, who rifled a right-foot shot past former Manchester United goalkeeper Roy Carroll after a neat lay-off by Nuhiu. It was Maghoma’s first goal since February.
Moments later, Joe Mattock came close to doubling their advantage when his deep cross struck the crossbar.
Oozing confidence and quality, Wednesday continued to control possession and deservedly went 2-0 in front in the 10th minute as Madine, from close range, volleyed home Chris Maguire’s glorious centre.
There was so much creativity and purpose in the Owls’ attacking play that the Magpies simply struggled to contain them. Maghoma and Maguire’s trickery in wide positions repeatedly threatened to unlock their backline.
On the quarter of an hour mark, Maghoma floated in a lovely cross into the penalty area which Nuhiu nodded over when well-placed. That was the first of three opportunities Nuhiu spurned inside the first 30 minutes, with the former Austrian Under-21 international directing two Maguire deliveries off target.
In a rare foray forward, Liam Noble bent a right-foot shot narrowly wide as the visitors briefly threatened to claw their way back into the contest.
Madine released his strike partner Nuhiu down the left hand side on the stroke of half-time and it required a great interception by Haydn Hollis to prevent the Owls from grabbing a third.
As good as Wednesday had been in the first period, County were dreadful and it was hardly a surprise their manager Shaun Derry, who represented Sheffield United during his playing days, decided to make three alterations at half-time.
Things could have got even worse for County had Nuhiu not blazed over another fine chance following more good approach play by Mattock.
Giles Coke, the hero at Brighton, nearly claimed his second goal in as many appearances following a rapid counter attack by Wednesday but he lashed wide from an acute angle.
Ultimately, Nuhiu was not to be denied, stooping to steer a downward header past the helpless Carroll in the 65th minute. That dashed County’s hopes of mounting a comeback and Maguire flashed a fierce effort over while Nuhiu’s low drive was well blocked by Carroll.
The three-goal margin allowed Gray to throw on youngsters Rhys McCabe and Paul Corry in the latter stages, giving a breather to the likes of Coke and Maghoma ahead of their clash with Championship title favourites Derby County this weekend.
Maguire, a constant menace, tested the reflexes of Carroll as Gray’s side kept on pressing for a fourth.
Fresh from scoring his first goal in Owls colours since March 2013, Madine ought to have made it four in the 85th minute but some how headed Liam Palmer’s cross wide.
Wednesday: Kirkland; Palmer, Lees, Loovens (Zayatte 68), Mattock; Maguire, Coke (McCabe 73), Semedo, Maghoma (Corry 81); Nuhiu, Madine. Substitutes: Westwood, Hutchinson, Lee, Floro.
Notts County: Carroll, Thompson, Adams, Mullins, Hollis, Smith (Jones HT), Wroe (Dawson HT), Noble, Whitehouse (Balmy HT), Cassidy, Murray. Substitutes: Spiess, Tempest, McKenzie, Waite.
Referee: Eddie Ilderton (Tyne & Wear)
Bookings: County: Hollis; foul (83), Adams foul (90)
Goals: Maghoma (2), Madine (10), Nuhiu (65)
Attendance: 12, 851