Facing Nottingham Forest could have been a scary Hallowe’en prospect for Sheffield Wednesday.
It is quite frightening the recent stranglehold Forest have had over the Owls.
Going into Saturday’s contest, Wednesday had won just one of their previous nine meetings.
Although they have struggled to pick up positive results in recent weeks, Forest would have fancied their chances of getting back to winning ways at a ground where they had triumphed on their last three visits, keeping a clean sheet in every match. A scarily good record.
Ultimately, the only person who had a horror show at the weekend was Forest goalkeeper Dimitar Evtimov.
For three quarters of the match, the Bulgarian had looked calm and assured on his debut, producing important saves to deny Kieran Lee, Daniel Pudil and Jack Hunt.
Evtimov should have saved Fernando Forestieri’s 25-yard drive but it slipped beyond his grasp and into the net.
As they say, every ghoul counts.
Under-pressure Forest boss Dougie Freedman said: “There wasn’t a lot in the game for either side but an unfortunate error from a young goalkeeper has cost us.”
Up to Evtimov’s howler, Freedman’s injury-hit Forest side had superbly executed their game-plan, nullifying the Owls’ attacking threats.
They kept their shape well, showing lots of discipline, and were defensively strong. There seemed no way through.
Everything was a bit laboured from the hosts in the opening 45 minutes despite head coach Carlos Carvalhal freshening up the team.
He made four changes, bringing in Keiren Westwood, Jose Semedo, Atdhe Nuhiu and Forestieri, but their midweek Capital One Cup exertions appeared to leave them jaded. They looked unrecognisable from the side who turned over Arsenal with such ease.
Head coach Carvalhal claimed Wednesday were too direct, lumping too many balls up to Nuhiu.
It was actually Forest who created the best chance, with former Sheffield United player Jamie Ward’s near-post header hitting the outside of the post after great play by Daniel Pinillos.
Ward has always liked a confrontation and could count himself fortunate to avoid a red card after putting his hand on Semedo’s face.
Other referees might have seen the flashpoint differently but Jeremy Simpson only cautioned the Northern Ireland international.
Carvalhal was left furious by Ward’s antics, protesting vehemently to Simpson, but said sorry for his behaviour post-match.
“Football is an emotional game and these things can happen,” he said. “I apologised to the coach and the player at the end.
“I know I must be quiet and can’t show that kind of reaction.
“The coaches are important in the game to be examples to the players, fans and young players coming through.”
At the interval, Carvalhal corrected Wednesday’s style of play, ordering his full-backs to push on more and provide the width.
Not for the first time this season, Lucas Joao made an impact after coming on as a substitute.
His pace and power added an extra dimension in the final half hour. He was a handful and Forest’s defenders will still be having nightmares about him now.
Joao’s introduction saw Forestieri move to the left flank and Barry Bannan go into the middle of the park. Those tactical changes helped Wednesday wrestle the initiative away from a stubborn, well organised Forest side.
“We moved because we wanted to take a risk to try and win the game,” said Carvalhal.
“We put two attackers up front and Fernando on the left. We know that is not Fernando’s natural position but we know he can play on the sides and score from there.”
The fans who flocked to Hillsborough saw the good, the bad and downright ugly.
The way Forestieri instantly controlled a high ball, turned quickly and got his shot off for the winner oozed class.
Ward’s bad first-half miss came back to haunt the visitors and there was no need for Pudil and Nelson Oliveira to square up to each other as tempers threatened to boil over in the closing stages.
But Wednesday ground Forest down and got the result their second-half pressure merited. If Joao and Ross Wallace had brought their shooting boots, the margin of the win could have been even bigger.
So having ended their Forest hoodoo, Wednesday will be looking for another home treat when they take on table-topping Brighton and Hove Albion tomorrow.
If the Owls play to their maximum, there is certainly no reason why Carvalhal’s men can’t give the unbeaten Seagulls a real scare.
Wednesday: Westwood 7; Hunt 7, Lees 7, Loovens 7, Pudil 8; Wallace 6, Semedo 6 (Joao 56, 7), Lee 7, Bannan 7; Forestieri 7 (Helan 79), Nuhiu 6 (Hooper 86). Substitutes: Wildsmith, Palmer, McGugan, Sasso.
Forest: Evtimov 6; Mills 6, Wilson 6, Hobbs 7 (O’Grady 84), Pinillos 7; Vaughan 6, Trotter 6; Ward 6 (Williams 79), C Burke 6 (Osborn 59, 6), Blackstock 6; Oliveira 5. Substitutes: Durrant, Lichaj, Grant, Walker.
Referee: Jeremy Simpson (Lancashire).