Gallant Sheffield Wednesday hand Leicester City gut-punch in late fightback

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Sheffield Wednesday struck at the death to secure a hard-fought point against table-topping Leicester City.

Looking at the table before the game there wasn’t really much space for optimism from a Wednesday perspective, and the general consensus was that chances would be few and far between. So when Barry Bannan picked the pocket of the Leicester defence and bore down on goal, the posts gaping, the crowd couldn’t believe it.

What they couldn’t believe more, though, was that their skipper – possibly caught in two minds between shooting and passing to Callum Paterson – slotted it wide of the mark. It was the sort of chance that Wednesday haven’t had much of this season, the sort of chance they had to be taking.

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And it wasn’t the only one either. Not long afterwards there was another opportunity, Bannan again reading the game well to cut out a Foxes pass, but this time it was Paterson who had the chance, snatching at it with his left and allowing Jannik Vestergaard to block it when goalkeeper, Mads Hermansen, was nowhere to be seen.

Unfortunately for the Owls he was exactly where he needed to be when Wednesday’s third chance came along, and though Bambo Diaby’s chance was nowhere near as guilt-edged as the others, it was still one that they could’ve done better with. Instead it was gathered by the shot-stopper.

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What happened soon after was morbidly predictable. Leicester, with their first truly meaningful attack, took the lead. Stephy Mavididi jinked down the left, clipped in a ball that evaded three Wednesday players and fell to Abdul Fatawu – one of two on his own – to take it down and fire home. The groan that swept through Hillsborough was a familiar one. ‘Well of course’.

Even after falling behind, though, Wednesday looked dangerous going forward. It was only once they got to the final third that they struggled. George Byers’ cross-cum-shot evaded Paterson, Bailey Cadamarteri was causing problems and had a strong effort well-blocked. Cam Dawson, meanwhile, didn’t have too much to worry about at the other end.

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But there was no way through against Enzo Maresca’s men – a team made up of multi-million-pound players, current and former internationals, and a certain record-breaking Premier League striker with a history at Hillsborough. So the hosts went in 1-0 down at the break.

Wednesday might have been up against it, but they weren’t giving up on the game. A lovely throughball from Will Vaulks sent Dominic Iorfa down the right on the hour mark, and his cutback found Byers – his low effort, though, was straight at the goalkeeper.

With 62 minutes gone, Danny Röhl delved into his bench for the first time. On came Liam Palmer for his first minutes of the German’s tenure, as well as Anthony Musaba. Diaby made way for the Owls legend, while youngster Cadamarteri came off to a big round of applause after a full debut that offered clear indications as to why the 18-year-old is rated so highly at Middlewood Road.

John Buckley took to the field not long afterwards, Byers having run his race in what was an energetic and full-blooded performance from the popular midfield man. Wednesday kept pushing, another half-chance falling the way of Musaba as the game headed into the final 15 minutes. Marvin Johnson did well to make space and find him, but his effort flew over the bar and into the Kop.

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Röhl went back to his bench again, this time plucking Jeff Hendrick and Ashley Fletcher from those remaining, taking off Will Vaulks and Barry Bannan in an attempt to inject something different into the midfield.

They huffed and puffed, did Wednesday. Often giving as good as they good as they got against a team that - on paper - was a complete mismatch. Fletcher had probably the best of the late chances but saw his effort saved by the Leicester goalkeeper. He'll have felt that he could've tested him more.

It felt like the game was ebbing away from them, Leicester's experience and quality keeping the Owls at arms' length, but Wednesday weren't done. It became kick and rush, the hosts pushing for something, anything. And when Paterson's brilliant cushioned header sent Hendrick free Hillsborough held its' breath.

The exhale only came as it hit the back of the net. The Irishman prodding home in the third minute of added time to the delight of the 20,000+ Wednesdayites who'd turned out in the bitter cold with nothing but blind optimism keeping them going. It was 1-1, and it was nothing less than Röhl's men deserved.

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It wasn't a case of job done yet, of course, with the Foxes making one final push, but Dawson spread himself well to divert Vestergaard's goalbound header away from the line seconds before the final whistle was blown. It was a big moment for the shot-stopper, and the result could be a big one for Wednesday.

They could've had all three, but a point will do. Wednesday came into this game with nobody expecting anything from them - they leave it with a morale-boosting performance that will see them play host to Blackburn Rovers with a renewed sense of hope that they're not done yet. 90+3.

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