Analysis: Better....but still not good enough - Sheffield Wednesday 0 Wolverhampton Wanderers 1

A dejected Jordan Rhodes
A dejected Jordan Rhodes
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Talk about it never rains but pours.

Wednesday’s winless run stretched to six matches despite a battling performance against Championship leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Leo Bonatini gets a shot away

Leo Bonatini gets a shot away

Ruben Neves’ well-taken and controversial 34th minute strike condemned them to a second Hillsborough defeat of the season and heaped more pressure on Owls head coach Carlos Carvalhal.

Wednesday’s injury crisis deepened on the eve of their showdown with Nuno Espirito Santo’s Wolves men.

Goalkeeper Keiren Westwood and midfielder Barry Bannan joined the growing casualty list. Other first-team players out include Jack Hunt, Tom Lees, Sam Hutchinson, Kieran Lee, George Boyd, Steven Fletcher and Fernando Forestieri.

With Westwood and Bannan failing to shrug off their groin injuries, Joe Wildsmith and Jacob Butterfield were handed late call-ups. It was the first match Bannan had not been involved in all campaign.

Owls star man: Liam Palmer

Owls star man: Liam Palmer

While it is fair to say the Owls’ injury situation is hindering their hopes of climbing up the table, it cannot be used as an excuse for their inconsistent displays this term.

To compound Wednesday’s woes, full-back Morgan Fox was sent off late on after collecting a second booking.

The depleted Owls showed plenty of fight and endeavour in an attempt to rescue a morale-boosting result. But, in truth, Carvalhal’s troops lacked confidence, quality and conviction in the final third. They only forced John Ruddy into one meaningful save.

The hosts, lining up in a 4-1-3-2 formation with David Jones stationed in front of the back four, looked solid and well organised defensively early on in front of the TV cameras. The Owls harried and hustled Wolves in possession, giving them as little time on the ball as possible.

Owls chairman Dejphon Chansiri watches on

Owls chairman Dejphon Chansiri watches on

It took Wolves until the 13th minute to fashion a chance, Diogo Jota fed Ivan Cavaleiro, who drilled a low right foot effort well wide.

Fresh from scooping the Championship goal of the month award for November, Adam Reach spurned a glorious opportunity to put Wednesday ahead after a fine free-flowing attack. Gary Hooper flicked on Liam Palmer’s cross into Jordan Rhodes, who calmly knocked the ball down to Reach and he side-footed wide when well-placed. Reach should have at least hit the target.

Carvalhal, serving a one-match touchline ban following his sending off against Hull City on December 2, will have been encouraged with how his team performed in the first period.

And Joost van Aken’s glancing back header from Liam Palmer’s dangerous centre was well held by John Ruddy as the Owls grew into the contest.

Jota let his frustrations get the better of him just after the half hour mark as he cynically hacked down Palmer. The nine-goal striker was cautioned by referee Darren Bond.

Butterfield was harshly booked after a tackle on the lively Cavaleiro, who made a meal of it, near the touchline. It looked a fair challenge by Butterfield but Bond didn’t see it that way.

And the boos rang around Hillsborough when Wolves opened the scoring from the resulting free-kick.

Wednesday only partially cleared Cavaleiro’s delivery and £15m star Neves, the division’s most expensive player, coolly stroked home from 20 yards. It was a classy, composed finish by Neves.

Ryan Bennett joined Jota and Butterfield in the book after pushing Rhodes to the floor. Soon after the Wolves centre-half tangled again with Rhodes and was lucky not to collect a second yellow card.

Rhodes steered wide on the stroke of half-time after Ruddy misjudged a cross as the Owls pressed for a leveller.

Carvalhal’s side started on the front foot after the break and Palmer blazed high over the top after a good surging run by the energetic Reach.

Although Wolves always carried a threat on the counter attack, Wednesday were enjoying a good spell and Reach surged down the left and floated a cross towards the back post which Hooper headed back across the face of goal but Neves spotted the danger and cleared the danger.

The visitors could have put the contest out of Wednesday’s reach but Romain Saiss glanced Cavaleiro’s free kick narrowly wide and Leo Bonatini dragged wide after initially fluffing his lines.

Carvalhal sent on Atdhe Nuhiu and Lucas Joao to increase his attacking options and Joao nearly made an immediate impact. Palmer picked out the Portugal international at the back post and he nodded over, although Joao was deemed to have tugged Bennett back in the box.

The Owls adopted the direct approach and Joao’s pace added an extra spark to their forward line. Joao raced to the byline and fizzed in a good cross which was turned behind for a corner by Willy Boly.

With five minutes remaining, Fox was given his marching orders after upending substitute Helder Costa just outside the penalty area.

Moments later, Cavaleiro then drilled wide as Wolves comfortably held on to claim maximum points and move seven points clear at the top.

A chorus of boos greeted the final whistle. Some Wednesday fans directed at the team. Some at Bond.

All in all, it was another frustrating night.