Sheffield Wednesday: A performance to be proud of on a night of bitter disappointment

Carlos Carvalhal offers Barry Bannan a conciliatory hand up after play-off defeat to Huddersfield
Carlos Carvalhal offers Barry Bannan a conciliatory hand up after play-off defeat to Huddersfield
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As we stood in the toilets relieving initial thoughts on play-off disappointment for Sheffield Wednesday as much as anything else, we were interrupted by former England manager Steve McClaren.

"They lost it in the first leg," he interjected before quickly exiting the men's room at the back of the grandstand.

The question for McClaren and everyone else is, did they?

Was Wednesday's reserved and contained approach to the first leg of their semi-final clash with Huddersfield Town an ultimately damaging blow of reaching Wembley for the second successive year?

The inquest into why Wednesday this season failed to go one better than last year will begin soon enough. What could have been done differently over the last nine months will be a question debated over well into the summer.

It'll be a discussion which will probably start in the cold light of day on Thursday. The morning after the night before.

But the agonising frustration and bitter disappointment of a penalty shootout defeat continues to fester and makes hiding away in sleep on Wednesday night difficult.

So, in the here and now, thoughts turn to whether Sheffield Wednesday could have done more in their play-off semi-final.

Regardless of whether you agree with McClaren over the merits of how Carlos Carvalhal instructed his side to go about their business in the first leg, Wednesday at least ensured they would be starting the second level-pegging with Huddersfield.

It left both them and their opponents in a cup final situation. A one shot deal. Winner takes all.

And in their approach to that, they cannot be faulted. It was a performance to be proud of and one worthy of the stadium-shaking backing it received.

After a long and tough campaign, they gave everything they had left in their attempt to beat Huddersfield.

Fernando Forestieri was the embodiment of that.

This is a player who we were told weeks ago would not be 100 per cent fit again this season. And that was worryingly obvious in the first leg at Huddersfield when he was a virtual passenger in the game.

But you would not have known it on Tuesday night. Forestieri ran from the first minute until the last. In the 120th minute he sprinted half the length of the pitch in his desire to make something happen for Wednesday.

His name will be in the headlines because he missed the decisive penalty. The talisman that failed to carry them through.

But before his penalty was saved by Danny Ward, Forestieri had given his all in a team effort packed with desire and determination.

Likewise, Kieran Lee showed no signs of the injury worries that blighted the second half of his season. And Sam Hutchinson the same.

They gave their all and so did their team mates. Wednesday continued to restrict Huddersfield as they had done in the first leg but offered so much more going the other way.

There was a level of composure on the ball that was severely lacking on Sunday. Some of the passing moves were a joy to watch.

Wednesday's players were fully switched on and, in a neck-and-neck race of a game, they were showing why they are one of the Championship's top tips.

The match played out on a knife-edge. The two teams could hardly have been better matched. Both had periods of dominance but the balance was never far from tipping.

With nothing between them, it was almost right for it to be decided with the lottery of a penalty shootout.

But such a scenario only makes defeat more agonising and the pain even more raw.

Now, Wednesday find themselves in the same position Brighton were last year - the side everyone said was the strongest in the play-offs yet was dumped out at the semi-final stage.

There was no wallowing in pity for Brighton. They shook themselves down and reset for another go, learning from their previous experience to make themselves into a much stronger side.

Wednesday now must do the same. Harness the pain and come out stronger for it.

But, like questions and theories on where it went wrong, that is for tomorrow.

Right now should be about pride.