Federico Macheda, a one-time Sheffield Wednesday target, settled today’s derby in favour of Doncaster Rovers at Hillsborough.
Wednesday looked to Jermaine Johnson and Atdhe Nuhiu to sharpen their attack despite the loan signing of Hull striker Matty Fryatt, who was on the bench.
JJ started in a central position, tending to play just behind Nuhiu, and Michail Antonio was switched to his favoured position on the right wing.
The Owls took the early initiative as well, pressing towards the Leppings Lane end, which was far less than full.
But Rovers had not come merely to defend, judging by the presence of three forwards, Macheda, Brown and Robinson, though Paul Dickov’s side did funnel back when Wednesday were in possession, which was often.
The opening stages were low key yet did not lack a competitive edge.
Wellens went into the book for a foul on McPhail, Nuhiu followed after he caught Khumalo late, and so did Keegan for chopping down Coke.
A lovely free kick from McPhail was headed across goal by Nuhiu and cleared for a corner.
A rare foray by Rovers produced a corner by Keegan; Roger Johnson headed away well, as did Jones from a cross by Spence, and the former Owls captain followed that with an important block on a shot by Nuhiu.
There were passing mistakes by Wednesday but at least they seemed to be responding to Dave Jones’ call for players to look for the ball and not be afraid to try things.
The defence, meanwhile, were having a fairly easy time.
Llera sprayed a fine ball towards the corner flag for Antonio; Jones made a hash of the winger’s cross, and Nuhiu had a chance, making half a yard for a shot under pressure and clipping it wide, after half an hour.
Wednesday were winning applause for some constructive work, and one of the best moves yet ended with JJ lashing an ambitious shot high over the bar when a pass to his right to the unmarked Antonio would have been the better option.
JJ and Antonio impressively forced corners, and there was no doubt that this performance so far by Wednesday was far better than the previous two - reflected in half-time applause and chanting as they left the field..
Spence got booked for a foul then defended astutely to concede a corner from which Doncaster made their first chance, Khumalo heading downwards into the arms of Kirkland.
Four minutes after that a long throw by Antonio was knocked out to Nuhiu and his shot was cleared from the goalmouth by Brown.
Nuhiu, who had been having probably his best game yet, flashed an instinctive header over the top, Helan saw a shot deflected for a corner.
Wednesday were cranking up the pressure and twice went close in the space of two minutes. Roger Johnson chipped a cross that was headed goalwards by Nuhiu, but Jones cleared off the line.
McPhail swung in a fine ball to the far post; Llera looked sure to head home but Turnball saved at the foot of the post.
Then Macheda gave Owls fans a huge fright, beating Roger Johnson close to goal, but the Owls scrambled the ball away.
With Wednesday dominating this half but just lacking that final finish, Fryatt was sent on for JJ in the 69th minute.
But totally against the run of play, sub Coppinger delivered a quality cross from the left and MACHEDA, in space, sent a close-range header under the bar, in the 71st minute.
Just after that, the on-loan Manchester United striker in whom Wednesday were interested dragged a chance across goal.
At last the Rovers fans had something to sing about and their team found fresh confidence, to cause the Owls problems.
But Nuhiu went close with a good header from a McPhail corner.
Kirkland made a brilliant, late double stop from Wellens at his near post.