ONE OF the most attractive matches at Hillsborough in years brought Wednesday only a point because they did not do the ugly things ruthlessly enough in the dying stages.
Knocking the ball towards the opposition’s corner flags; keeping possession in their half; holding them at bay - those ploys can make the difference between joy and anti-climax.
Gary Megson yelled and gestured frantically for his team to get the ball up to the opposite end of the field as Huddersfield mounted a last-ditch rally.
His pleas were in vain: that fine predator Jordan Rhodes broke through for one final time and the Owls were left regretting the loss of a 4-2 lead and the missing of chances that could have given them a stunning victory in a great game between two good teams.
It was a manager’s nightmare on both sides, with the way goals were conceded; a dream for the neutral spectator, and extreme highs and lows for both sets of players and supporters.
Home fans took out their frustration on referee Darren Deadman after the final whistle because the second half had seemed to go on forever.
But there were many stoppages, and a minimum of five extra minutes was announced. According to my stopwatch, Rhodes’s equaliser hit the net after five extra minutes and 23 seconds, and play went on for only a few seconds after the restart. It is quite common for stoppages within stoppage time to add a little extra time. It was just cruel on Wednesday and their fans that in the sixth minute of time added on they should have a brilliant comeback triumph whisked away from them.
Megson had no complaints about the time-keeping: “I’ve got more complaints about the [lack of] savvy we showed in added time. You just need cool heads, a bit of knowhow, flip it over the full backs and push in from there.
“The fourth goal has to be seen to be believed; a really scabby kick from [Ian] Bennett [Huddersfield keeper] has gone through along the ground, somehow, up to the forwards.
“We should have nine - a back four and five strung across the middle of the park- so that can’t happen and we see the game off.
“Once the ref says five minutes, there’s no use moaning about it; you have to defend better than that. We became a bit panicky and weren’t streetwise enough.”
Megson rightly judged that Wednesday deserved to be 4-2 up: “At 2-0 I didn’t think ‘crickey, this is going to be a cricket score’; I fancied us to get back in it.
“From set pieces we were a threat; through Chris O’Grady we were a threat; with Marshy we were a threat out wide. We have scored four on the spin against one of the top sides.”
O’Grady won praise from Megson for his goal, only his third: “That will do him the world of good. His work-rate is terrific he sets us up. He was terrific.”
Sanchez Watt, O’Grady’s strike partner, was taken off at half time to guard against him being sent off after he was booked for a rash challenge just before half time.
For the second successive week Ryan Lowe got his chance as a sub but this time he missed his best opportunity, which brought a save from Bennett when it was 4-3 .
At 3-2, Marshall shot wide when a pass was the better option and Danny Batth headed over from a Chris Lines corner.
Rhodes could have scored more: he missed with a header at 0-0 and a lob at 2-0.
But all his goals were expertly taken, and the first three came via balls from left winger Gary Roberts, who showed why Megson wanted him in the summer.
For the first, Rhodes lost Batth to get in a free header; for the second, he darted in front of Jones to nod home; for the third he pulled away from Jones to find space.
The fourth had a freaky build-up; a kick from keeper Bennett sped low and through the legs of a team-mate, then past Chris Lines, to reach centre half Peter Clarke, who was up in the Wednesday half and played a through ball; Jones had come forward with Rhodes, the striker turned and sprinted in between the covering Reda Johnson and Julian Bennett to finish impressively.
Stephen Bywater, Wednesday’s keeper, had helped to make it 3-2 with a ball to Marshall, who beat right back Jack Hunte before picking his spot.
The Owls’ first was a perfect far-post header by Jones from a Marshall cross, the equaliser a poached affair by Johnson after a prolonged scramble, and the fourth O’Grady’s unrehearsed, instinctive back-header from a Lines free kick.