Match report: Bristol City 2 Sheffield Wednesday 2 - Owls drop out of play-off places
All the pre-match build-up was dominated by one man.
The will he, won’t he saga of Jordan Rhodes’ potential transfer to Sheffield Wednesday rumbled on in the background as the Owls stepped onto the pitch at Ashton Gate.
But both on the field and off it, things did not go according to plan for Wednesday.
Rhodes remained a will he, won’t he prospect long after the transfer window shut at 11pm with wrangling over the intricacies of a proposed deal going on into the wee hours.
And earlier in the night, there was a similar tale of frustration as Carlos Carvalhal’s men slipped out of the play-off positions after being held to a draw at relegation-haunted Bristol City.
Twice they led. Twice they were pegged back.
At times, the Owls played some lovely intricate, free-flowing football. Fernando Forestieri and Ross Wallace found the back of the net after two sublime attacks.
But ultimately Wednesday couldn’t see it out, with a penalty by Lee Tomlin and a fortuitous strike by Tammy Abraham, who netted twice in the reverse fixture, ensuring the Robins ended their long losing run.
Given Wednesday play twice in four days, it was no surprise Carvalhal made three changes. He altered his full-backs, bringing in Liam Palmer and debutant Morgan Fox.
With Sam Hutchinson beginning his two-match suspension, Carvalhal opted for David Jones in midfield. Gary Hooper failed to shrug off an injury and was not included in the matchday squad but Almen Abdi returned to the 18.
Wednesday, hammered 4-1 at Ashton Gate last year, gave their 1,400 plus fans little to cheer about in the early stages as the hosts made most of the early running.
Tomlin tried his luck from long range after spotting Keiren Westwood off his line only to see his ambitious lob sail harmlessly wide.
Then Abraham fed midfielder Josh Brownhill, whose strike hit the post but the linesman had raised the offside flag.
Against the run of play, the Owls broke the deadlock in the 17th minute, with Forestieri rounding off a lovely, incisive move. Adam Reach raced on to Barry Bannan’s long raking pass and the winger’s low centre was coolly tapped in by Forestieri.
Wednesday grew in confidence and stature after Forestieri’s strike and had a decent penalty claim waved away when Aden Flint’s attempted clearance appeared to bounce up onto his arm but referee Oliver Langford was unmoved.
Fox was proving a good outlet down the left flank and he squared to Sam Winnall but the striker’s shot was blocked by Flint.
Moments later, Forestieri couldn’t quite connect with another glorious cross by Fox and Giefer had to be alert to halt another promising Owls attack.
It was all Wednesday as the rain continued to pour down, with Jones seeing his fierce volley superbly hacked away by Robins captain Bailey Wright.
Those missed opportunities came back to haunt the Owls as City, fighting for their lives at the wrong end of the table, levelled things up from the spot. Tomlin, a lively figure throughout, jinked his way into the area and was brought down by Tom Lees. It was a definite penalty and Tomlin made no mistake from 12 yards, sending Westwood the wrong way.
Wednesday had looked in complete control but Tomlin’s penalty was a timely boost for the Robins, who were looking to end a club-record run of eight straight league defeats.
Tomlin lifted a free-kick narrowly over the top after Tom Lees scythed down Chelsea loanee Abraham.
The Robins continued to bely their lowly league position in the second period and should have gone ahead through Abraham. He outpaced Liam Palmer but lost his composure at the key moment, drilling a right foot shot over with only Westwood to beat.
It proved a big turning point as Wallace grabbed his second goal in his last three appearances. The Scottish wide man calmly sidefooted home after collecting Bannan’s defence-splitting pass.
The Robins refused to buckle and Fox made another telling contribution, clearing Jens Hegeler’s drive off the line after the German wriggled his way past two defenders.
It was an entertaining affair throughout and Abraham spurned a great chance to test the reflexes of Westwood after collecting Tomlin’s pass.
But the hosts pressure paid off when a shot from Joe Bryan from outside the penalty area took a wicked deflection off Abraham wrong-footed Westwood and flew into the back of the net.
It was a huge slice of fortune and Bannan, who pulled the strings in midfield, dragged well wide as the Owls pushed for a third.
In the closing stages, Giefer turned away Wallace’s 25-yard piledriver before Lees planted a bullet header over as it finished all square.
One point from two away matches is a disappointing return for the Owls. How Rhodes’ firepower would come in handy in the fight to get back into the play-off positions.
Bristol City: Giefer; Little, Flint, Wright, Golbourne; Hegeler; Brownhill, O’Dowda (Djuric 69), Tomlin (O’Neil 81), Bryan; Abraham. Subs: Fielding, Vyner, Pack, Paterson, Wilbraham.
Owls: Westwood; Palmer, Lees, Loovens, Fox (McManaman 82); Wallace, Jones, Bannan, Reach; Winnall (Nuhiu 57), Forestieri. Substitutes: Wildsmith, Abdi, Hunt, Buckley, Sasso.
Attendance: 17,438 (1,421)
Referee: Oliver Langford (West Midlands)