Character, crazy Jos Luhukay and the magic of Barry Bannan '¦Â the story of Sheffield Wednesday 2 Stoke City 2
This was Jos Luhukay as we've never seen him before.
The Sheffield Wednesday manager usually keeps his emotions under wraps but he erupted along with three sides of the ground in the 82nd minute of Sheffield Wednesday's clash with Stoke City.
He was as animated at anyone, jumping around, arms aloft, joy illuminating his face in much the same way as Barry Bannan had just lit up Hillsborough.
The Owls were trailing 2-1, Stoke could have been out of sight, but Luhukay's men had shown real resolve to keep in contention.
Up stepped Bannan to curl home a truly stunning free-kick to salvage a point, extend Wednesday's unbeaten Championship run to four matches and lift them to ninth in the table.
Afterwards, as he was quizzed by the media, Luhukay couldn't help couldn't help but laugh at his reaction. Yes, he admitted, it was out of character. But sometimes, he said, special things inspire special responses.
The day wasn't about him, he added; it was about the team, the fightback, the fans.
It was also about Bannan. And that moment of magic.
After 76 seconds, the Owls knew they were in a game. The visitors cut open the home side and Benik Afobe lashed the ball home, with goalkeeper Cameron Dawson found wanting at his near post.
After 22 minutes, the Owls were in shock. Afobe scored again, slipping the ball past Dawson to seal an opening of complete Stoke dominance.
"It was a very tough game," Luhukay acknowledged. "I think the first 25 minutes were very difficult for us. Stoke play a fantastic game. They have many possibilities to create chances.
"We had too much respect (for them). For 25 minutes, we were not on the field."
Crucially, as Wednesday wavered, the crowd didn't. Three minutes after Afobe's second, Marco Matias reduced the arrears and the Potters, brimming with Premier League talent but fragile after a stuttering start to the season, took a step back.
The game was on.
"After Stoke's second goal, the fans stay completely behind our team." Luhukay said. "That helped to keep the players 'loose' so they can come back with character and hard fight to draw 2-2. They worked unbelievably hard for that."
Wednesday asked all the questions late in the first half, Stoke could, and should, have scored a third after the break. The ever-dangerous Tom Ince was twice wasteful while Dawson was sharp to get down to deny Afobe a hat-trick when Liam Palmer's attempted clearing header bounced back off the Stoke striker.
Young Matt Penney produced the run of the match, driving 70 yards and beating four players before forcing a decent save from Potters keeper Jack Butland.
Five minutes later,Â up stepped the Owls' saviour, and even opposing boss Gary Rowett was moved to compliment the Scottish international's powers of sorcery.
Bannan. In front of the kop. 22 yards out. That wand of a left foot. Hey presto.
"Barry Bannan has shown what a little magician he can be at times," the Stoke manager said. "There is probably only him on the pitch who can score that."
Butland, good enough to represent England only four days earlier, never moved.
Credit also to the magician's assistant: the post. They always look better when they go in off the woodwork.
Bannan had been the instigator of the first Wednesday goal as well, his long, raking pass finding Steven Fletcher whose chest-down set up Matias for a neat, low finish.
"What you don't want to do at the point, when you're so dominant away from home, is give the opposition and the crowd a lift and a lifeline," Rowett added. "That's exactly what we did. Barry Bannan on the ball ... you can't allow him to play a ball over the top."
UP FOR THE BATTLE
Captain Tom Lees didn't hide away from the Owls' problems. "We gave ourselves a lot to do against a good team," the skipper said. "The positive is, it proves we have good character to come back from 2-0 down.
"It was a pressurised situation we put ourselves in. In the first half we just didn't get to grips with them. We never stopped them playing. It was just far too easy for them.
"They just came straight through the middle of us numerous times in the first 10 minutes. We had to get a grip on that."
Bannan's strike changed everything, a rare instance of beauty on an afternoon which had looked like turning ugly.
"I will go home watch the goal maybe 10 times," smiled Luhukay. "And then I will watch it some more."
Wednesday had faltered, but they didn't fold. The comeback spoke of spirit, of 10 points from a posible 12, of momentum intact, of standing up when it mattered.
Bannan provided the magic, but sometimes the trick is to stay in a game and take something when it's not going your way.
Wednesday (4-3-3): Dawson; Palmer, Lees, Thorniley, Penney; Reach (Hector 88), Pelupessy (Nuhiu 68), Bannan; Matias (Onomah 68), Joao, Fletcher. Subs not used: Wildsmith, Baker, Fox, Pudil.
Stoke (4-1-4-1): Butland, Martina, Shawcross, Martins Indi, Pieters; Woods; Ince, Allen, Etebo (Fletcher 84), Diouf (Bojan 84); Afobe (Crouch 87). Subs not used: Federici, Edwards, Williams, Berahino.
Goals: Matias 25, Bannan 82 (Wednesday); Afobe 2, 22 (Stoke).
Referee: Geoff Eltringham (County Durham).