Beleaguered Sheffield Wednesday’s torrid start continues as Mansfield Town complete smash-and-grab at Hillsborough

Sheffield Wednesday crashed out of the Carabao Cup to League Two Mansfield Town after a penalty shootout defeat at Hillsborough on Tuesday night.
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Wednesday’s first half was a strong one, and within 10 minutes they’d already had five shots had tested Christy Pym on a couple of occasions. It was clear from his selection, once again picking Barry Bannan, that Xisco wanted to win this one – and his players came out with the sort of intensity that has been lacking so often this season.

Yes it was a League Two side, but the Owls were looking slick and driven, Pol Valentin stretched his legs up and down the right side while Callum Paterson did the same down the left, and Tyreeq Bakinson used the ball well sat in front of a back three of Akin Famewo, Michael Ihiekwe and Dominic Iorfa. Cameron Dawson was back in goal, too.

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Josh Windass, playing behind Ashley Fletcher, was a constant thorn in the Stags’ side, and Anthony Musaba’s quick feet gave the visitors all sorts of problems as the hosts completely dominated the opening stages of the encounter.

It wasn’t his feet that did the damage in the end, though, the young attacker finding himself in the right place in front of goal to get on the end and nod home a lovely cushioned header into the mixer by Paterson after he’d been found by Windass from out wide. The Owls lead, and they certainly deserved it.

They wouldn’t be resting on their lead at Hillsborough, and as Bannan buzzed around and ran things from the middle of the park Bakinson proved to be a good outlet in terms of controlling the game. Xisco’s men were well on top going into half time, and would’ve been even more so if Windass’ rocket from range hadn’t come cannoning back off the post before the whistle was blown. He was desperately unlucky not to get off the mark.

It was much of the same as the second stanza got underway as well, the Owls not making any changes as they sought to finish the job early doors, but after a couple of early attacks – Pym stopping both Ihiekwe and Windass with fine stops – the game did start to shift the way of Nigel Clough’s side around the hour mark.

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It was around then that the Owls boss decided to act, taking off Paterson to a big round of applause as Juan Delgado entered the field. ‘Pato’s ovation from the South Stand was testament to another strong shift in Wednesday colours. The change killed Mansfield’s momentum somewhat, but Famewo did have to make a fantastic recovery challenge moments later to mop up a chance of his own making.

Michael Smith and Lee Gregory took to the field in an attempt to push for a second, goalscorer Musaba getting an ovation of his own as he and Fletcher took their leave – the tricky Dutchman had won over a few fans more who had the trip to S6 for this one.

Delgado nearly made it two with 79 minutes gone, Pym making yet another strong save to tip his header onto the post, and Gregory couldn’t quite force it home as the visitors managed to eventually get it clear before Will Vaulks and Liam Palmer entered the fray in place of Valentin and Bakinson. They too got the plaudits they deserved from the Hillsborough crowd.

But how often are teams made to rue their missed chances in football? The Pym saves, the efforts against the woodwork. And Wednesday’s defence had hardly been steadfast this season. So going into the the final 10 minutes of course there were concerns, especially with the flood of changes.

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And so it came to pass, Xisco’s wait for a clean sheet as Wednesday boss will continue. Rhys Oates was given the freedom of Hillsborough as he worked his way closer to the edge of the Owls box, and while his finish was exquisite there will be frustrations at how he was allowed to even have one in the first place.

It was so late in the day, and so against the general run of play, but Clough won’t have cared. The near-on 2,000 Stags supporters erupted and they knew that it was going to go to penalties. All of the changes seemed to disrupt Wednesday, and the visitors had their tails up as Sunny Singh Gill blew the final whistle. Penalties again.

The shootout started well as Smith, Windass and Bannan all scored, and when Dawson kept out Will Swan it looked like it it would be Wednesday’s night after all. There was to be no shootout joy this time around though as Vaulks and Palmer both saw their efforts saved in front of an empty Kop. The Owls are out of the Carabao Cup, Xisco’s wait for a win continues, and that trip to Leeds United and Elland Road is looking very daunting this weekend.