WEDNESDAY rounded off the final away game of the season by throwing their shirts to a sell-out following of 1,600.
It was a tribute to the away backing received over nearly nine months by fans who have covered more than 8,000 miles.
Those shirts will have been suitably soiled because the final contest of a long, tough campaign was more about perspiration than inspiration.
On a warm afternoon it was toil in the sun as a Wednesday team with relatively little to play for were hassled all the way by desperate opposition.
Owls players know they are playing for their futures but that desire still could not equate to the urgency felt by Rovers.
The Pirates had to win, so now they are practically down because of their points tally and goal difference.
It is because Wednesday had their own flirtation with the bottom end of the table that for some of those who threw their shirts to the crowd it may turn out to have been a farewell gesture.
Gary Megson has now held his previously-mentioned meeting with chairman Milan Mandaric and vice-chairman Paul Aldridge about his summer targets.
Megson had told us that they were all British and experienced players. Now he has revealed the number: six.
“I’ve also given them [the directors] the names of players who would be better off if they moved on,” he said.
He refuses to divulge the number of players that he wants to offload: “I’m more interested in the players we bring in, because we do know that what we’ve got this year won’t get us where we want to be.”
Megson, wearing a cap borrowed from Nicky Weaver to keep the sun off his head, saw his team make a flying start then end up having to be happy with a point.
There were several key moments in the game - firstly the decision to award the Owls a penalty after Gary Madine ran past Danny Coles and ended up on the ground. If there was contact, it was very hard to spot. The reaction of furious Rovers players told what they thought of Madine.
Tommy Miller, who profited by lashing home his 11th goal of the season from the spot in the third minute, defended the striker: “Their lads were saying that Gaz threw himself to the ground, but there was definitely contact.”
There was no argument from the Owls skipper about the penalty award that put Rovers level nine minutes later, after a foul by Lewis Buxton on midfield man Wayne Brown.
But Miller and teammates were puzzled by the second-half incident where Wednesday were awarded a penalty by a linesman but the decision was reversed after the referee consulted the assistant.
Jermaine Johnson had played a great ball through the middle to Neil Mellor, Conrad Logan came out, and I have to say I thought the keeper played the ball a split second before he flattened Mellor. But the linesman gave the penalty signal, putting his arm across his chest.
Miller reflected: “Why the decision was changed, I’ll never know. The linesman gave it; he’s closer that the ref and has got a great view of it. All of a sudden the ref’s run over, and they’ve given a corner. It’s a bit baffling, but that’s football.”
Wednesday’s penalty award also made Madine a target for home
fans, and, insisted Megson, for home players. The Owls manager defended his striker over a first-half incident where it looked as if Madine had elbowed right-
back Danny Senda in the face, on the touchline.
“Gary Madine got some stick right through the game,” he said. “The right-back went down and it looked life-threatening - two seconds later there’s no mark on his face.
He felt it would be “churlish” to harp on about Saturday’s ref, Dave Foster of Newcastle - “because we haven’t performed anything like we can.”
The match too was poor fare, with a lack of cohesive football.
But a point was a decent result for the Owls. .
They had first-half escapes when centre-half Byron Anthony hit the bat with a header and Jo Kuffour missed two chances; Nicky Weaver saved well from a superb 35-yard strike by midfielder Chris Lines. Weaver produced two imporessive stops in the second half, from Lines and Will Hoskins.
The contest fizzled out into a stalemate.
Megson, whose dad managed Rovers, was a bit sad to see the Pirates’ fate virtually sealed: “I trained down here
“When I was 13; I played for Parkway Juniors, their junior team. I’ve got fond memories of Bristol
“But, from our own point of view, seven or eight games ago we were looking over our shoulder, trying to make sure we didn’t get sucked into it, which we’ve done.”
Promotion will be the target when the Owls get back on the road next season.
Our performance was an end-of-season performance, by a team that wasn’t playing to go up or battling to stay up.
We got off to a good start with the penalty and I thought we were bossing the game until Rovers got their penalty.
It was a bit of a non-event, to be perfectly honest, from our point of view.
I could go on talking until the cows come home; they’ll all sound like excuses. That team didn’t play anywhere near the way it’s been playing in the last six weeks.