As I walked back to my car reflecting on the Owls’ best away-day of the campaign, I was dreading the drive home in the strong winds and heavy rain.
You could say I was feeling the blues.
Given the truly awful weather and trying circumstances, you could have forgiven Sheffield Wednesday for thinking it wasn’t going to be their day against Birmingham.
On a cold, grim afternoon, everything seemed to be conspiring against Carlos Carvalhal’s side in front of the biggest crowd of the season at St Andrew’s.
But Wednesday defied the treacherous weather conditions, injuries to three key players and falling a goal behind to grind out three precious points at one of their main promotion rivals.
You could see what completing the double over the Blues meant to the players as they celebrated with 3,000-plus Wednesdayites after the final whistle.
This wasn’t just your ordinary win. This felt very significant.
Birmingham hadn’t lost in the Championship since their trip to Hillsborough on Boxing Day. This was a serious test of the Owls’ promotion credentials.
They lost Kieran Lee in the warm-up. The midfielder, arguably their most-improved performer, hurt his back, meaning Vincent Sasso was drafted in at centre-back and Sam Hutchinson dropped into midfield.
They then suffered a double injury blow in the opening quarter of an entertaining contest which was a great advert for the division.
Keiren Westwood was stretchered off after receiving lengthy treatment following a collision with Tom Lees and Hutchinson had to be taken off, having sustained a knee problem. They were replaced by Lewis Price and Lewis McGugan respectively.
Westwood was clapped off by all four sides of the ground before being taken to hospital as a precaution following his head/neck injuries. He thankfully returned to the stadium later on.
Carvalhal could have done without all of that disruption.
You feared the worst for his patched-up team when they conceded in the fifth of 10 minutes of stoppage time at the end of the first half.
Old boy Michael Morrison charged down Lees’ attempted clearance and Clayton Donaldson pounced, side-footing home from close range. It was a slack, uncharacteristic piece of defending by Lees, who was making his first appearance in over two months after recovering from a hamstring injury.
Price demonstrated what an able deputy he is for Westwood by producing two superb saves either side of half-time to deny Donaldson. They were two crucial stops.
Coach Lee Bullen, deputising for Carvalhal, who had a plane to catch, said: “Lewis was fantastic. He pulled off a wonder save in the first half and made a couple of other blocks.”
Atdhe Nuhiu, Wednesday’s third and final sub, was the catalyst for their extraordinary comeback. He was a handful for Birmingham’s backline and opened up more space for Gary Hooper and Fernando Forestieri to exploit. In a tactical rejig, Nuhiu spearheaded the attack, allowing Hooper to play at the tip of their diamond formation.
The performances of Price and Nuhiu underlined the strength in depth in Carvalhal’s multi-cultural squad.
“The big difference between this season in comparison to previous seasons is we have the strength in depth and quality,” admitted Bullen.
The Owls’ equaliser was an exquisite team move.
Barry Bannan, the driving force from midfield, exchanged passes with Forestieri before feeding Nuhiu. The big striker rolled the ball into the path of Hooper and the former Celtic marksman still had plenty to do from just outside the penalty area. He bamboozled Jonathan Grounds with a dummy before unleashing a ferocious right-foot shot which went in off the underside of the crossbar.
Bullen said: “Attey had a big, big effect on the game. Gary played just in behind him and Fernando and he caused havoc.”
After Nuhiu’s effort was deflected over, Hooper claimed his second in the space of a couple of minutes, turning in Fernando Forestieri’s inviting delivery.
In Hooper, the Owls have a goalscorer at the peak of his powers. He is a lethal finisher and has already paid off a huge chunk of the £3 million the club paid for him last month.
Gary Rowett, the Birmingham boss, claimed there had been two infringements in the build-up to the winner. He argued Bannan pushed substitute Diego Fabbrini over while Maikel Kieftenbeld was also blocked off. TV replays suggest Rowett had a point with both incidents.
“I can accept the bits we don’t do well enough but the bits that are hard to accept are the ones that are out of your control,” he said.
“There was a clear foul on Diego in the middle of the pitch - I have seen it three or four times - then a clear block on Maikel Kieftenbeld.”
To compound Rowett’s frustration, the Blues also had a strong penalty appeal turned down in the closing stages after McGugan tangled with Fabbrini.
Rowett said: “I have watched it three or four times. It was a clear penalty, McGugan gets his legs caught in Diego’s feet.”
This gutsy win epitomised the never-say-die attitude Carvalhal has instilled in the Wednesday side. In the face of adversity, they rolled their sleeves up and showed resilience. You can never write them off as they possess so many match-winners who can turn games their way.
“It was probably the most satisfying three points of the season,” said Bullen.
“Off the back of a hard-fought point against Burnley, losing three players to injury, going a goal down and with the weather like it was, the players showed phenomenal character.”
It was a heart-warming display which made my journey back to South Yorkshire in the freezing cold and rain a far more palatable experience.
Blues: Kuszczak 6; Caddis 6, Morrison 6, Robinson 6, Grounds 6; Gleeson 6, Kieftenbeld 6; Buckley 7 (Vaughan 81), Toral 6 (Fabbrini 71), Maghoma 6 (Solomon-Otabor 83); Donaldson 7, Substitutes: Legzdins, Spector, Davis, Shotton.
Owls: Westwood 5 (Price 18, 8); Hunt 6, Lees 6, Sasso 7, Pudil 6; Wallace 6, Hutchinson 6 (McGugan 22, 6), Bannan 7, McGeady 6 (Nuhiu 61, 8); Hooper 7, Forestieri 7. Substitutes: Semedo, Bennett, Joao, Helan.
Referee: James Adcock (Nottinghamshire).
Attendance: 20,302 (3,047).