Sheffield Wednesday slipped to their first defeat of the campaign, losing 1-0 to Championship leaders Nottingham Forest this afternoon.
Henri Lansbury’s 37th minute header ended the Owls’ six-match unbeaten run and secured Forest’s third consecutive 1-0 win at Hillsborough.
Wednesday boss Stuart Gray, who played for Forest during his playing days, reverted back to the side who triumphed at Middlesbrough last weekend. There were recalls for Keiren Westwood, Glenn Loovens, Stevie May and Atdhe Nuhiu, with Chris Kirkland, Kamil Zayatte, Jeremy Helan and Gary Madine dropped to the substitutes bench. New boy Hallam Hope, signed from Everton a youth loan until January 1, also had to settle for a place on the bench.
Sam Hutchinson misses out for the third consecutive fixture, having failed to shrug off a back problem he sustained against Millwall. Lewis Buxton (hamstring) and Kieran Lee (groin) were not risked.
Forest, sitting top of the table after four matches, made six alterations, with former Owls forward Michail Antonio retaining his place in the starting line-up. Ex-Wednesday loanee Matty Fryatt was named on the bench.
Wednesday, one of the surprise packages of the season, carved Forest open down the left side of their defence but Michael Mancienne superbly hacked away Liam Palmer’s centre.
Tom Lees, who has played an instrumental role in Wednesday’s impressive start to the season, tested the reflexes of Karl Darlow after a long diagonal ball upfield by Jose Semedo.
But Wednesday certainly didn’t have it their own way and Britt Assombalonga burst past Lees and fired straight at Republic of Ireland international Westwood from an acute angle.
Antonio, booed every time he touched the ball by the home faithful, floated in a lovely cross towards the back post in the 10th minute after skipping beyond Giles Coke but the delivery narrowly evaded Britt Assombalonga.
Semedo became the first player to go in the referee’s notebook in the 20th minute after a lack tackle on former Sheffield United loanee Andy Reid.
Midway through the half, Jacques Maghoma cut inside from the left flank and unleashed a fierce low effort which parried Karl Darlow, with Jack Hobbs clearing the loose ball.
But back came Forest and Henri Lansbury whipped in a delightful cross to the back post which narrowly missed Assombalonga and the on-rushing Chris Burke.
Antonio, Glenn Loovens and Joe Mattock were harshly cautioned. Loovens’ yellow card is his fifth of the campaign, meaning he will miss the trip to Bolton Wanderers after the two-week international break.
Eight minutes before the interval, Forest broke the deadlock and Antonio was the provider, swinging in an inviting cross into the six yard box to allow Lansbury to ghost in unmarked to head home.
Moments later, Chris Maguire dragged a shot well wide from just outside the penalty area after a neat layoff by the lively Nuhiu.
The Owls dictated things in the early stages of the second period, with May’s long range strike deflecting wide after good play by Coke.
May, who will be away on Scotland Under-21 duty next week, steered a header straight at Darlow following an inviting cross from Maguire.
The diminutive striker forced Darlow into action just after the hour mark, seeing his rasping shot palmed to safety by the Forest goalkeeper.
Darlow dived to his right to superbly keep out Maguire’s stinging shot after Forest failed to clear a Maghoma corner as Wednesday enjoyed a good spell of pressure.
In a rare forway forward, Eric Lichaj tried his luck from distance following a weak clearance by Loovens but Westwood was equal to it.
Gray threw on Madine and Helan to try and give Wednesday an extra spark in the final third. The change nearly had the desired effect as Madine narrowly failed to touch in Joe Mattock’s cross.
Wednesday piled on the pressure in the dying minutes, with Nuhiu’s left foot drive superbly turned over by Darlow while Jack Hunt hacked away his goalline strike as Forest held on.
Sheffield Wednesday: Westwood; Palmer, Lees, Loovens, Mattock (Hope 85); Maguire (Helan 79), Semedo (Madine 64), Coke, Maghoma; May, Nuhiu. Substitutes: Kirkland, McCabe, Zayatte, Corry.
Nottingham Forest: Darlow, Hunt, Hobbs (Laschelles 73), Mancienne, Lichaj; Antonio (Fryatt 79), Cohen Reid, Burke, Lansbury (Tesche 68); Assombalonga. Substitutes: De Vries, Veldwijk, Osborn, Fox.