The groans which greeted the final whistle said it all.
Despite their attacking riches, Sheffield Wednesday were left frustrated by a stubborn, spirited Burton Albion outfit.
Jackson Irvine’s 24th minute thunderbolt cancelled out Ross Wallace’s opener on a frustrating night for the Owls.
Wednesday dominated the ball throughout but lacked quality in the final third to break down a difficult, hard-working Brewers side. The draw extended Burton’s unbeaten run to five matches as they took another step towards Championship survival.
As for Carlos Carvalhal’s team, it was not the result they wanted but no damage was done in the race to seal a top-six finish as Fulham were held to a home draw with fellow promotion-chasers Leeds United.
With Sam Hutchinson ruled out due to a knee problem, David Jones replaced him in the middle of the park in the Owls’ only change from the weekend’s resounding victory over Norwich City.
Burton, who secured their first Championship points at the expense of Wednesday in the reverse fixture, lined up in a 4-1-4-1 formation, with Kyle McFadzean screening the back four.
But Nigel Clough’s side showed some attacking intent in the early stages as Jack Hunt slid in to cut out a Lloyd Dyer cross before top-scorer Jackson Irvine nodded Lasse Vigen Christensen’s centre over the top.
After a slow start, Wednesday found their groove and Sam Winnall’s drive was heading in but was inadvertently blocked by Fernando Forestieri inside the six yard box after good play out wide by Wallace.
Fresh from scoring and weighing in with two assists in Saturday’s outstanding victory over Norwich City, Forestieri looked in the mood to keep his good run of form going. He shuffled the ball from his right to left foot only to be denied by agility of Jon McLaughlin.
Barry Bannan dragged wide after being fed by Forestieri as the Owls seized control.
And their pressure paid off in the 17th minute when Wallace drilled in his fifth goal of the campaign. The Scot’s fierce shot from long range went in off the post and rewarded their incisive attacking play. It was not the cleanest of strikes but they all count.
Despite that, Burton refused to buckle and Keiren Westwood twice thwarted Marvin Sordell in the space of 30 seconds. Westwood’s second stop was a stunning one-handed save and prompted the Kop to chant ‘there’s only one Keiren Westwood.’
However, the Brewers levelled things up after Wednesday only partially cleared the resulting corner from Christensen. The ball dropped invitingly to Irvine just outside the penalty area and the Australian international lashed an unstoppable left foot volley past Westwood. Irvine was also on target at the Pirelli Stadium when the two teams last met in January.
Some of the Owls’ approach play was of the highest standard but Burton, hovering precariously above the relegation zone, defended manfully to keep them at bay. Bannan, pulling the strings in the centre, tried his luck again from distance, with his left foot piledriver drifting inches off target.
The Brewers continued to frustrate Wednesday in only the second competitive meeting between the two clubs. Well organised and disciplined, Burton sat deep and looked to hit the Owls on the counter attack.
It was the hosts who made all the running at the start of the second half and Bannan’s weak shot was comfortably gathered by McLaughlin following a swift break.
The Owls looked for a creative spark and Carvalhal introduced Adam Reach in the 52nd minute for Wallace. Forestieri moved to right wing to accommodate Reach.
In his pre-match press conference, Carvalhal had warned it would be anything but straight forward against a side fighting for survival.
He wasn’t wrong.
Burton came with a game plan and executed it, for the most part, well.
The home fans patience was sorely tested and McLaughlin punched away Forestieri’s cross turned shot just after the hour mark.
For all their possession, Wednesday struggled to create clear-cut opportunities. And when they did threaten to make the breakthrough, McLaughlin came to Burton’s rescue. The shot-stopper repelled Reach and Jordan Rhodes in quick succession.
The Owls kept asking questions of Burton’s rearguard and Turner brilliantly headed away Reach’s inviting delivery before Forestieri’s clever overhead kick at the back post flashed wide.
After soaking up the pressure, the Brewers almost scored against the run of play through Lloyd Dyer, who turned sharply in the box before slicing over.
It just wasn’t Wednesday’s night in front of goal as substitute Steven Fletcher couldn’t steer a header on target in the closing stages.
Wednesday: Westwood; Hunt, Sasso, Loovens, Fox (Buckley 79); Wallace (Reach 52), Jones, Bannan, Forestieri; Rhodes, Winnall (Fletcher 66). Substitutes: Wildsmith, Palmer, Semedo, Nuhiu.
Burton: McLaughlin; Brayford, Naylor, Turner, Flanagan; Sordell (Palmer 71), Irvine, McFadzean, Christensen, Dyer; Varney (Woodrow 82). Substitutes: Bywater, Mousinho, McCrory, Miller, Murphy.
Referee: Peter Bankes (Merseyside)