Derby County 1 Sheffield Wednesday 1 – Steve Bruce’s battling Owls prove their mettle with draw against bogey side
The statistics show that in the last two decades Sheffield Wednesday's bogey team has been Derby County.
The Owls have defeated the Rams just twice in the last 22 meetings in all competitions.
And one of Wednesday's least favourite trips of the season is Pride Park. Their last triumph at Derby came in 2006.
Try as they might, the Owls failed to end that unwanted record on Saturday and secure only a fifth league win in their past 32 outings against the Rams.
But Dominic Iorfa's second half header salvaged Wednesday a point, cancelling out Bradley Johnson's 10th minute opener, and the stalemate stretched the club's unbeaten run to nine matches.
The Owls have restored pride under Steve Bruce. He has the team fighting and believing in themselves again.
While a draw was a fair result in a pulsating, enthralling encounter, Wednesday could have snatched maximum points.
Substitute Sam Winnall, playing against his former club, had a goal ruled out for a foul on Scott Carson in the 78th minute.
Referee Keith Stroud claimed Winnall, wearing a protective mask in his first appearance since suffering a broken nose, kicked the ball out of Carsons' hands when he poked the ball home after a free-flowing attack from the visitors. Neither Carson nor Derby’s defenders protested. It looked an incredibly harsh decision to disallow it.
"It was one of them that could have gone for us," conceded Bruce. "The referee took an eternity to make the decision.
“It was close and a little break like that would have been great for Winnall who has been out for a long time.
"I hope he (Stroud) made the right choice."
Frank Lampard, the Derby manager, unsurprisingly disagreed with Bruce's assessment of the controversial flashpoint.
Lampard, whose team occupy the final play-off spot, said: “I was a long way away but Scott Carson said he had two hands on it and felt it was the right decision."
Only TV channel Quest will know why they did not include the Winnall incident in their highlights package. It was arguably the major talking point of a thriller between two evenly-matched teams.
Nonetheless, Wednesday gave themselves an uphill task after going to asleep from a set piece.
Shortly after George Boyd forced Carson into action, Adam Reach inadvertently flicked on Duane Holmes' corner into the path of Johnson and the midfielder's looping header gave Keiren Westwood no chance.
It was the worst possible start for depleted Bruce's side. Pride Park was rocking and Steven Fletcher's rasping 25th minute drive was turned away by Carson to add to their frustration.
Fletcher blazed over on the stroke of half-time to epitomise a bitty first half showing.
Bruce said: “We give the ball away cheaply. We can't accept it. We have to improve going forward and going forward quicker. It is what we spoke about at half-time.
“We have to move the ball quickly, not just by lumping the ball up the pitch, but into wide areas and into good areas quicker than what we do. It is something we will have to work on.”
A STRONG RESPONSE
It would have been easy for the Owls to crumble after Fletcher was withdrawn early in the second half. Fletcher, their focal point up front, was helped from the pitch by Wednesday's medical team after suffering knee/ankle injuries. He becomes the latest player to join their lengthy injury list.
But this Owls team are made of stern stuff these days and an unmarked Iorfa powered in Bannan’s delightful free kick to stun the Rams faithful.
It was end to end after Iorfa’s leveller. Subs Winnall and Atdhe Nuhiu worked tirelessly and caused Derby’s defence plenty of problems.
However, the Rams finished in the ascendency. They piled on the pressure in the dying minutes and Westwood produced a series of superb saves to ensure Wednesday’s unbeaten run remained intact. The veteran shot-stopper was equal to Jayden Bogle, Holmes and Florian Jozefzoon efforts as the Owls held on to record a second successive draw.
Bruce said: "We were better in the second half that's for sure.
"A draw probably was the right result although probably doesn't do either side any good. We need to get wins at this stage of the season.
“There is still room for improvement but I've got to be pleased that we came from 1-0 down away from home. You've got to accept that.”
A late run for the play-offs is still possible but Wednesday must quickly start turning draws into wins if they are to make that dream a reality.