Downbeat, but not downhearted.
As Wednesday’s players boarded the away coach after signing multiple autographs and posing for pictures with fans on Saturday night, the team left Portman Road knowing they had given Ipswich Town quite a scare.
For much of the Championship fixture, the Owls were on the back foot and could count themselves fortunate to have concede only twice.
But Carlos Carvalhal’s charges finished with a flourish and almost grabbed an unlikely equaliser in the dying minutes. Tractor Boys goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski maintained his concentration levels, turning Lucas Joao’s fierce long-range drive around the post.
Ipswich manager Mick McCarthy said: “My heart was going a little bit faster than it should be, I would imagine.
“I thought the players were excellent, though. They got their heads on things, Bart (Bialkowski) got punches and we saw it out. We held out well.”
Ipswich had the joint best home record in the division during the 2014/15 season as they narrowly missed out on promotion. Facing McCarthy’s side so early on in the campaign was always going to be a tough assignment for Carvalhal’s new-look team.
Wednesday’s bid to pick up a positive result was hindered by injuries to key senior players.
Keiren Westwood was forced off in the second half and taken to hospital following a knee in his back, leading to academy starlet Joe Wildsmith coming on for just his second Owls appearance.
Sam Hutchinson also came off after picking up a knock while skipper Glenn Loovens soldiered on to the end despite a niggle.
As Wednesday pushed for a leveller, Carvalhal said he wanted introduce Kieran Lee earlier into the action and suggested he might have put Modou Sougou on but felt his “hands were tied” due to the spate of injuries.
“I had three players with problems and I wanted to move but I couldn’t,” the Portuguese admitted.
The truth is that, for all their possession, Wednesday rarely troubled Białkowski. They had 59% of the ball but registered only three shots on target compared to Ipswich’s eight.
Marco Matias, who watched a shot come back off the post inside the opening five minutes, was the architect of the Owls’ opener.
His cross turned shot was parried by Białkowski into the path of Ross Wallace, who lashed home his maiden Wednesday goal. Matias faded after a bright start.
Wallace’s strike came against the run of play. But the visitors joy was short-lived as Ipswich equalised in the 21st minute following a defensive mix-up between Loovens and Jeremy Helan which let in livewire Freddie Sears and the diminutive striker rifled a right-foot shot past Westwood from an acute angle.
Sears was a constant menace in Wednesday’s side throughout with his pace and movement and dovetailed effectively with Daryl Murphy.
McCarthy said: “He was outstanding. What’s lovely about it is that he went and played wide right, got into shape in two banks of four, and there was never any question - he just went and did it. He was fantastic.”
After the break, Ipswich took control of proceedings and Lewis McGugan had to be alert to clear Christophe Berra’s header corner off the line.
Wednesday switched off again defensively for the hosts’ second, allowing the impressive Ryan Fraser to get to the byline far too easily.
The Bournemouth loanee’s cross was not dealt with by Westwood and Tommy Smith stooped to head home from close range.
Carvalhal said: “They were not individual mistakes. They were collective.
“We must try to correct our errors.”
Had Sears and Berra taken further opportunities, Ipswich would have been out of sight. Wednesday, with Jack Hunt featuring prominently on the right flank, nearly made them pay for that profligacy in the closing stages.
“I am unhappy about the result but I am proud of my players, who fought for the whole 96 minutes, and also our fans, who supported the team during and after the match,” said Carvalhal.
“We knew this would be one of the hardest matches in the Championship but in some parts we controlled the game and we put Ipswich under pressure in the last 15 minutes.
“But my players are learning and if this was played in three months’ time it would be a different test.”
“The most important thing is that our players are not in the dressing room with their faces down.
“They have their heads up and they will react very quickly to give a good answer on Wednesday.”
Carvalhal had warned his players they would have to “dance a different dance” in Suffolk. Ultimately, they came up a little short, failing to consistently perform in unison.
When all of Wednesday’s team start dancing to the same piece of music, the Championship had better watch out.
Ipswich: Bialkowski 7; Chambers 6, Smith 7, Berra 7, Knudsen 6; Maitland-Niles 6 (Pitman 74), Skuse 6, Douglas 6 (Coke 86), Fraser 7 (McGoldrick 74); Sears 8, Murphy 7. Substitutes: Gerken, Tabb, Emmanuel, Toure.
Sheffield Wednesday: Westwood 6 (Wildsmith 59, 6); Hunt 7, Loovens 6, Lees 6, Helan 5; Hutchinson 6 (Nuhiu 62, 5), Lopez 6; Wallace 6, McGugan 6 (Lee 79), Matias 6; Joao 6. Substitutes: Palmer, Semedo, Sasso, Sougou.
Referee: James Linington (Newport).