Match report: Sheffield Wednesday 0 Cardiff City 2

Matthew Connolly heads past Owls Chris Kirkland for Cardiff's second goal.
Matthew Connolly heads past Owls Chris Kirkland for Cardiff's second goal.
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MISSING out on three points was bad enough, but a triple blow made Saturday a black day for Wednesday.

Defeat by the Championship leaders was compounded by Michail Antonio’s injury and the incredible crop of results elsewhere.

While the Owls were going under because of two set-pieces in a scrappy battle with Cardiff, almost all the teams around them or on the fringes of the relegation scrap won.

So it was a good day for Wolves, Huddersfield, Barnsley, Peterborough and Ipswich; a bit higher up, there were wins for Millwall, Birmingham and Derby.

Although Bristol City are three points adrift at the bottom, only six points cover all the other teams in the bottom half of the table.

Wednesday’s position looks a bit precarious again, one point above the drop zone, but there would be more to worry about if they had been hammered by the division’s best team. They matched Cardiff in many respects. The main missing ingredients were an ability to shut out the corner and free -kick that brought the goals, and a creative spark.

The Owls too often posed too little of a threat, but scoring against the Bluebirds is not easy; this was their seventh away clean sheet.

“They probably have that bit more experience than us, and are more established,” said Dave Jones. “We’re probaby that bit more naive.

“You wouldn’t have picked the gap between the two teams, because there was nothing there, except for two set-plays of good quality.

“But we let people get away from us. You can stop those.”

The first goal came after Chris Kirkland, in a crowded box, could not get a firm enough connection to Craig Bellamy’s high corner; the ball broke out to midfielder Don Cowie and his shot from the edge of the area took a deflection off Anthony Gardner; unlucky, as Danny Pugh, on the line behind him, perhaps might have cleared it.

Jones was not happy with the build-up to that corner: “We took a goal-kick, a freekick, went the other side, lost it, gave a free-kick away then the corner, and they scored from it.”

Wednesday, obviously trying to improve on their poor first half against Forest, had attacked Cardiff in a lively start, but the Bluebirds ground their way into the game.

It was perhaps a credit to Wednesday that in general the leaders’ biggest threat came not from their star players but from the long throws of midfielder Aron Gunnarsson.

Jones also reflected: “They took the sting out of the game, slowed it down and appealed for everything.

“We fell into that lull instead of keeping it going. We needed somebody to take it by the scruff of the neck.”

He added that the Owls did not pick up for both goals.

The second one came from a classy free-kick from the left foot of Whittingham, hard to defend against because it arrowed into that danger area between defenders and the keeper. But right-back Matthew Connolly was unmarked as he ran forward to head home, leaving Wednesday players looking at one another.

“Instead of picking up, were were trying to mark space,” added Jones. “Their lad has broken the (defensive) line even before the ball has been played or entered the box.

“At Leicester, we were strong and we did it to the opposition; We got done at Watford with it. We’ve got some big lads in there and it shouldn’t happen. It’s switching off at vital times.”

Cardiff defended well against Wednesday’s set-pieces and other balls into the box, with centre-half Leon Barnett, signed on loan from Norwich last week because Mark Hudson and Ben Turner were injured, having a fine game.

There was not a clear chance for either side in the first half. In the second, there were outstanding tackles by Miguel Llera on Campbell and by Reda Johnson on Bellamy to snuff out danger.

But the second goal just about killed the game, try as Wednesday might to make more of an attacking impact and making substitutions.

The Owls had two good set-pieces of their own: a free-kick by Llera that was touched over the bar by David Marshall five minutes after the second goal and a corner from sub Chris Maguire near the end. Gardner’s header was stopped by Marshall, who also prevented Leroy Lita from making the most of the loose ball.

Maguire’s rare spot of first-team action came because of the Antonio blow.

Antonio and Barnett went down in the sort of tangle on the edge of the box that normally would have been innocuous:

Barnett was unhurt, but it was obvious that Wednesday’s top scorer was in trouble when he stayed down and beat the ground with his fist.

He was carried off after a four-minute hold-up.

Not yet knowing the extent of the injury, Jones hopes that the international break would prove beneficial to certain players.

“We’ve got one or two who have been carrying knocks. It might give us a bit more leeway to get Cokey (Giles Coke) back; he’s not far away,” he said.

“It will give us a bit more time to put a bit more sharpness into Reda (Johnson) and one or two others who haven’t been around.

“It’s important we keep it going. It’s very tight at both ends. There’s still a lot to play for.”