Match Report: Blackpool 0 Sheffield Wednesday 0

Jermaine Johnson is sent tumbling at Blackpool.
Jermaine Johnson is sent tumbling at Blackpool.
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Sheffield Wednesday earned a good point with a battling performance at Blackpool last night but it was not enough to prevent them from slipping two places to 18th.

The Owls are only three points above the relegation zone with three games left yet also remain within striking distance of mid-table.

They were denied victory by a great save by Matt Gilks from sub Chris Maguire in injury time as the striker went close to repeating his match-winning feat at Millwall.

Wednesday also weathered second-half pressure but made such an effervescent start that they could have been three up inside seven minutes.

After only 31 seconds, Jermaine Johnson volleyed tamely at the keeper from just inside the box after a left-wing cross from his striker partner Steve Howard.

Johnson also robbed centre half Kirk Broadfoot inside the area and fired a left-foot shot that brought a roar of anticipation from the away fans because it looked as if the ball was going in. But it sped wide and Gilks must touched it because a corner was given.

There was no doubting the keeper’s part in the next close call for the home team: a flying save to his right to keep a terrific 25-yard strike from Giles Coke out of the top corner.

Dave Jones made two changes to the line-up that started at Leeds.

Danny Pugh came in for Reda Johnson, who had been doubtful because of his ankle problem, and Howard - an effective sub at Elland Road - replaced Leroy Lita.

Jermaine Johnson was fit enough to play again despite having gone off on Saturday with a knee knock but it was no surprise that Seyi Olofinjana was still ruled out by his knee injury.

It was always going to be difficult to play cohesive football on the notorious Bloomfield Road pitch, which was patchy to begin with, and was soon showing plenty of divots.

But Wednesday did their best both in looking to take the game to the Seasiders and mostly keeping them well away from the danger areas in the early stages. Tom Ince, playing on the right side of a front three, sought to make something from nothing when he cut inside, then let fly, but he hit the side netting when some home supporters thought he had scored.

The Blackpool manager’s son gave Owls fans a bigger fright moments later after Stuart Holden gave the ball away in midfield and striker Nathan Delfouneso tore at the Wednesday defence; Ince seemed left with a simple chance that he hit across goal but there was also a deflection, resulting in a corner.

Wednesday had not been able to rediscover the attacking potency of those opening seven minutes.

They could have profited more from a fine ball from Lewis Buxton and a crossing position for Giles Coke, who over-hit the ball.

Blackpool too were finding it hard to produce any clinical work around the box.

Players on both sides were no helped by the pitch, for example when a Blackpool attack early in the second half collapsed because the ball bobbled over a player’s foot.

But there could be no interference to the aerial route when Broadfoot soared for a corner and hit the bar.

With the ball uncleared properly, midfielder Chris Basham hammered it back towards goal, and Miguel Llera made an important block.

Johnson led the next raid alone, surrounded by defenders and wrong-footing two of them before being brought down by Gary MacKenzie - a booking for the centre half.

Owls fans chanted for Llera, in anticipation of another goal like the one at Millwall, but this time Holden took the free kick from 28 yards, as it was just to the left of goal, and he whipped it high over the bar with his right foot.

Johnson looked a disgruntled figure at times; booked in the first half, and pulled up a couple of times subsequently, he received a talking-to from the ref in the second half, who also called captain Anthony Gardner to be in on the conversation.

JJ then had a word with the coaching staff, and went off in the 68th minute; it was not clear whether or not he was injured, as he was replaced by Chris Maguire.

There was untidy play from both sides on a pitch that could get worse as the game wore on. Maguire won applause from David Prutton - who himself had battled away unceasingly - for one determined run.

But the move fizzled out, as so many others from both sides had done, and it was followed by Buxton mis-hitting a cross for a goal kick, with the surface perhaps to blame once again.

Inside the last 20 minutes, Blackpool took off Matt Phillips and Basham and sent on Gary Taylor-Fletcher, up front, and Elliott Grandin.

A clash between Gardner and Taylor-Fletcher resulted in bookings for both players.

The Owls were having to do rather too much defending for their supporters’ comfort in the closing stages.

But the Owls could have snatched victory in injury time just like they did at Millwall a week earlier.

One of their best moves of the match ended with Howard slipping a pass to Maguire; from around 10 yards out and to the right of goal, the striker unleashed a fierce effort that sent Gilks springing to his left to push the ball away from his top corner.