Sheffield Wednesday: Valiant young Owls miss out on finishing in top spot
It was a case of so near, yet so far for Sheffield Wednesday U23.
Just one point would have been enough to see them win the Professional Development League North for the second successive season.
But missing out on that single point saw them fall to third in the table and miss out on the end-of-season play-offs.
Fine margins such as the width of the crossbar which denied both Preslav Borukov and Fraser Preston or the few inches remaining for the ball to travel when Ben Hughes saw a header cleared off the line.
They had led through Borukov but fell behind as Burnley forced they way into the game.
And although they threw everything they had at the opposition in the second half, the Owls could not find the breakthrough they needed.
“It’s disappointing because we’ve got beat and missed our opportunity to win the league,” boss Neil Thompson told The Star.
“These are the games they need to play in to experience that.
“I thought we gave it a right good go in the second half and we had a great start, the first 15 or 20 minutes where I felt we could have been two or three up.
“We didn’t get that second goal, they got one back and we had a sloppy 20 minutes before half time where we were all over the place to be honest.
“Burnley came into the game and got on the front foot.
“At the end of the day I cannot fault the lads’ effort. They put a lot of effort in and just maybe lacked that final ball, that bit of quality that would have made it count.”
Wednesday could hardly have made a better start as Borukov fired them ahead after robbing the ball from Burnley’s Scott Wilson.
The Bulgarian forward struck the bar moments later after meeting a fine cross from Preston.
Burnley grew into the game as they half wore on and equalised with their first real attack of note when Rob Harker powered home a header.
And the visitors doubled their lead before the break when Tinashe Chakwana slotted home from a Harker knockdown.
Wednesday pushed hard for the vital leveller in the second half – finishing the game with four attackers – but were continually frustrated.
Preston rattled the bar with a volley and substitute Hughes saw a looping header nodded away by Jordan Cropper under the bar.
Burnley looked set to make sure of the win in added time when Wednesday keeper Dan Wallis brought down Chakwana only to atone for his foul with a fine save from the penalty.
But there were to be no celebrations, only disappointment for the Owls as the final whistle went moments later.
A 4-0 win for Nottingham Forest saw them overtake Wednesday on goal difference and force them out of the top two.
“Last year we won it, this year we’ve had a cruel way to lose it,” Thompson added.
“Hopefully they’ve experienced something that will stand them in good stead.”