Sheffield Wednesday: The curse of 3pm Saturday ... Owls 1 Bolton 1
What is it about Sheffield Wednesday and three o'clock Saturday kick-offs?
Of the eight Championship victories the Owls have recorded this season, only two have come at that time.
As if that wasn’t damning enough, Wednesday are still searching for a Hillsborough win when kicking off at 3pm on a Saturday in the 2017/18 campaign. Their next chance won’t arrive until Fulham on April 7.
If you are an ardent Wednesdayite, it doesn’t get much more depressing than that. The sooner this miserable season ends the better.
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No wonder boss Jos Luhukay and Adam Reach cut downbeat, dejected figures following Saturday’s stalemate with fellow strugglers Bolton Wanderers.
The Owls thought they had done enough to secure three much-needed points when George Boyd controversially fired them in front in the 78th minute.
But the Trotters caught Wednesday with a late sucker-punch as substitute Aaron Wilbraham headed in Filipe Morais’s cross.
Did Jos Luhukay’s injury-ravaged side deserve to win? No. A draw was a fair reflection of a contest played between two teams devoid of confidence and quality.
It was yet another poor Owls showing but the result ended a run of five straight defeats in all competitions.
In a low-key first half, Jack Hunt spurned a great opportunity after Lucas Joao slipped him in down the right flank. The attacking full-back, one of six changes made by Luhukay, was in acres of space but dragged his effort horribly wide.
After good approach play by Reach, Atdhe Nuhiu twisted and turned inside the box only to see his effort from an acute angle saved by Ben Alnwick.
But Bolton arguably had the best chance in the opening 45 minutes when Sammy Ameobi, a thorn in the Owls’ side throughout, floated in a teasing delivery towards the back post which Will Buckley met with a bullet downward header but Joe Wildsmith produced a stunning save.
Wildsmith continued to excell in between the sticks, denying ex-Wednesday loanee Buckley, Derik Osede and Ameobi after the break. Along with Tom Lees, who was a pillar of strength at the heart of the Owls’ three-man defence, Wildsmith was a big plus point.
With 12 minutes left, the hosts took the lead against the run of play through Boyd. He raced on to Joao’s pass before drilling an unstoppable left-foot shot across goal which gave Alnwick no chance.
The linesman originally put his flag up, with Jordan Rhodes clearly standing in an offside position, but referee Darren Bond consulted him and decided to award the goal. Bolton were left fuming over the decision.
Trotters boss Phil Parkinson said: “The linesman originally put his flag up, with Jordan Rhodes clearly standing in an offside position but referee Darren Bond awarded the goal.
“It is incredible in this era that a striker dead centre in goal is not offside. He is offside. It is incredible in this era that a striker dead centre in goal is not offside. He is offside. You could see from the way we played that it affected us.”
It appeared, on this occasion, that the rub of the green had gone the Owls’ way.
But Wednesday failed to capitalise on that slice of good fortune, switching off defensively in added-on time. Morais’s cross should have been stopped at source by Reach and Frederico Venancio failed to bail his teammate out as he lost Wilbraham in the centre. The veteran striker’s looping header salvaged a point Bolton’s plucky display merited.
“We allowed the cross to come in from the right and we could have closed that down,” said Luhukay.
“We have to defend that situation better so we are very disappointed.”
Not for the first time in this troubled season, the Owls’ game-management was found wanting.
Reach said: “We had some chances in the first half. I wouldn’t say we definitely deserved to win the game. We weren’t at our best. The mood is not great but as players we are trying to focus on the positives and keep going.
“It’s not nice to be in the position we are in but it’s our fault and it’s only us who can rectify that.
“We are still eight points clear of the relegation zone so we need to make sure that doesn’t drop anymore.”
Now Wednesday have to pick themselves up and prepare for Saturday’s 3pm showdown with Leeds United. Ouch.