If further proof was needed that Wednesday can mix it with the Championship’s big boys, then they made their point at the KC Stadium.
At the home of the league leaders, they didn’t ‘park the bus’. They had a go and, had they been more ruthless in the final third, perhaps could have snatched maximum points.
The Owls’ results form away from Hillsborough has been well-documented. It now reads a meagre victories from 17 outings. It is their Achilles heel and the reason why they will just fall short of the automatic promotion.
Nonetheless, this was one of their best performances on the road.
Although Wednesday have failed to win any of their eight meetings against the top-six sides this season, they can take heart from their gritty, hard-working display.
There was controversy in the closing stages of a pulsating Yorkshire derby as Wednesday’s top-scorer Fernando Forestieri picking up his second red card in as many matches.
Forestieri, already booked for hauling down Andy Robertson, was harshly penalised in added on time for simulation after going down under a challenge from Michael Dawson. Referee Tim Robinson adjudged that Forestieri, who was given his marching orders in last weekend’s loss at Preston North End, had dived and the Argentine striker now faces a two-match suspension.
No team have made more changes to a starting XI (97) in the Championship than the Owls this season.
Boss Carlos Carvalhal stuck to his principles, making five alterations from the team who were held at home to Queens Park Rangers on Tuesday. He changed three of his back four, bringing in Liam Palmer, Michael Turner and Joe Bennett.
As expected, the Owls welcomed back Forestieri to the side following his one-match ban and also brought in Sam Hutchinson to add extra steel to midfield. Hutchinson had missed their three previous matches due to a knee injury sustained at Birmingham City.
Jack Hunt, Vicent Sasso and Daniel Pudil were not included in the match-day squad while Atdhe Nuhiu and Ross Wallace dropped to the bench.
It had the feel of a battle of two Championship heavyweights.
In the early skirmishes, the visitors made their presence felt, with Hutchinson and Turner putting in a couple of crunching tackles to break up Hull’s forward forays.
It was Wednesday who had the first sight at goal just before the quarter of the mark following a lightning counter attack involving Hooper, Forestieri and Bannan. Scotland international Bannan, one of the Owls’ standout performers this campaign, tried his luck from just outside the penalty area and his low drive was almost diverted in by Curtis Davies but Alan McGregor produced a great reflex save to deny the industrious midfielder.
Moments later, Hull came close to opening the scoring through Robert Snodgrass, who forced Keiren Westwood into a smart stop from an acute angle after a peach of a delivery by the lively Moses Odubajo.
The Tigers, relegated from the Premier League last season, are a big, strong, physical side but Wednesday more than matched in a cagey opening half an hour. Hutchinson added some much-needed height, aggression and graft to the centre of the park, helping to stifle and frustrate Bruce’s side.
Forestieri, seeking to atone for his sending off at Preston North End last weekend, looked in the mood from the off to cause Hull problems. The Owls’ 12-goal top-scorer featured prominently throughout the first period, dropping deep to spark Carvalhal’s troops.
Around the half hour mark, McGregor had to be alert to tip over Forestieri’s curling 25-yard free kick and Turner headed the resulting corner narrowly over as Wednesday enjoyed a good spell of pressure.
As he has proven time and time again, Forestieri is capable of conjuring a chance out of nothing. The £3m recruit from Watford saw his rasping drive from distance strike the post. It would have been one of the goals of the campaign - and Wednesday have scored a few beauties!
Hull monopolised possession but, try as they might, could not find a way through the Owls’ well-drilled back four. A 25-yard free kick was well saved by Westwood before the interval.
Carvalhal’s top-six chasers continued to press for the opener after the re-start and Forestieri showed neat footwork before testing the reflexes again of McGregor.
Mo Diame, quiet by his high standards, briefly troubled the Owls, seeing his attempt from the edge of the block deflected just wide of the post.
Former Chesterfield star Sam Clucas wasted a glorious chance to put the Tigers in front in the 52nd minute, racing on to Andy Roberton’s fine pass only to see his neat chip over the advancing Westwood hit the side netting.
Hull had their tails up and Abel Hernandez’s fierce shot was gathered at the second attempt by Westwood.
But Wednesday refused to buckle and some scintillating one touch play nearly carved the hosts open but Bannan’s dangerous centre evaded everyone in the centre.
Oozing class and confidence, the Tigers started to control proceedings and Westwood had to be equal to Uruguayan international Hernandez’s pilediver.
Clucas grew in stature as the contest wore on and was unlucky not to give the Tigers the advantage in the 66th minute, curling an effort which cannoned off the post and the loose ball was hacked away by Wednesday.
They continued to pile on the pressure and Davies headed wide from the resulting corner.
It took a superb piece of goalkeeping by Westwood to prevent Hull substitute Chuba Akpom from grabbing a late winner.
That would have been harsh on Wednesday, who were pushed back deeper and deeper in the closing stages.
Their top-two dreams may slowly be evaporating, but the Owls’ positive showing in Humberside underlines the progress they have made.
As Hull boss Steve Bruce pointed out in his programme notes, this is the “best Wednesday side I have seen in a long, long time.”
Hull: McGregor; Odubajo, Davies, Dawson, Robertson; Snodgrass, Livermore, Meyler (Powell 62), Clucas; Diame (Akpom 78), Hernandez. Substitutes: Jakupovic, Huddlestone, Maguire, Maloney, Elmohamady.
Owls: Westwood; Palmer, Lees, Turner, Bennett; McGeady (Wallace 64), Lee, Hutchinson (Lopez 67), Bannan; Forestieri, Hooper (Nuhiu 83). Substitutes: Price, Loovens, McGugan, Joao.
Referee: Tim Robinson (West Sussex)