Head coach Stuart Gray hit out at referee Simon Hooper following Sheffield Wednesday’s 3-0 trouncing at play-off chasing Wolves last night.
Gray was unhappy over Hooper’s decision to point to the spot following Claude Dielna’s challenge on Nouha Dicko in the 18th minute. Hooper issued a yellow card to the Frenchman and his close friend Sako blasted in from 12 yards.
He said: “I was disappointed with the penalty that was given. Claude easily won the ball but the ref gave it and you’ve got to get on with it.
“It was a good tackle. We lost possession and Wolves broke on us. I don’t think the centre-forward dived but I am disappointed with the referee’s decision. The penalty was the defining moment.”
Second-half goals by Benik Afobe and substitute James Henry further compounded Wednesday’s misery. The result means the Owls have failed to win any of their last 10 meetings with Wolves.
And they only had themselves to blame after missing a series of chances either side of half-time.
Wednesday created the first meaningful opportunity, with nine-goal top-scorer Nuhiu heading over Chris Maguire’s cross.
Early on, the contest was very open as Maguire drilled a shot off target after good approach play by the Owls. Rajiv van La Parra then shrugged off the attentions of Jacques Maghoma on the right flank after a peach of a crossfield pass by Jack Price before delivering a low cross which was well gathered at the near post by Keiren Westwood.
Stand-in Owls skipper Tom Lees nodded over Lewis McGugan’s free kick prior to Wolves controversially breaking the deadlock.
The visitors responded positively to going behind and, midway through the half, Maghoma fired a tame effort straight at Tomasz Kuszczak following a free-flowing move involving May and Nuhiu.
However, Gray’s men almost got caught napping at the other end when Kevin McDonald latched on to van La Parra’s lovely through ball but the former Sheffield United player was denied by Westwood.
Dicko was a constant thorn for the Owls’ backline and he turned sharply on the edge of the area before unleashing a rasping right foot drive which Westwood, at full stretch, expertly pushed away to safety. Moments later, Price should have done better after being picked out by Price but his tame strike was comfortably gathered by Westwood.
Wednesday came close to making it 1-1 in the 38th minute. Maguire floated in a teasing delivery which Maghoma met with a firm header. The winger, though, was left frustrated as Kuszczak, diving to his right, produced a smart stop.
Although Wolves carried the greater threat, the Owls continued to give as good as they got and McGugan skewed a shot off target following another dangerous counter attack on the stroke of half-time.
Wednesday made a bright start to the second period, with Maghoma surging forward before unleashing a fierce right foot drive which flew inches off target much to Kuszczak’s relief.
What has let Wednesday down all season is their poor finishing in front of goal and Nuhiu should have done better from close range after a fine delivery by Maguire in the 50th minute but the former Austrian Under-21 international glanced over.
Gray, who confirmed Liam Palmer will miss the rest of the season due to his ankle injury, said: “We probably had the better chances of the two teams tonight. They were there for the beating. I can’t believe we didn’t score with the amount of chances we created. They were good chances and have got to be created.”
That miss proved extremely costly as Wolves doubled their advantage courtesy of Afobe. The striker, who spent three months on loan at Hillsborough last season, volleyed Matt Doherty’s centre past Westwood from 10 yards, with the ball hitting the right-hand post before bouncing into the opposite corner.
“I can’t blame the ref for that second goal because we didn’t stop the cross,” said Gray.
Wednesday’s hopes of gatecrashing the top-six may be over but Gray has demanded they finish the campaign strongly. They certainly didn’t play like a team who had their flip-flops on and were preparing for the summer break. They were just beaten by a better team.
Marnick Vermijl came close to reducing the deficit on the hour mark, drilling a low shot narrowly off target.
Moments later, Maguire blazed over after Kuszczak punched away McGugan’s set piece.
Gray threw on Lavery at the expense of Nuhiu but Wolves extended their lead in the 67th minute when substitute James Henry burst infield before curling an unstoppable shot past Westwood.
With 20 minutes remaining, things could have got even worse for Wednesday as Sako flashed a left footed delivery which just evaded Dicko and Afobe in the six-yard box.
There was a lengthy break in play as Wolves defender Richard Stearman was taken off after suffering an injury.
Maguire was at the heart of Wednesday’s best attacking moves and nearly got on the scoresheet in the closing stages only to be thwarted by Kuszczak.
Despite the Scot’s best efforts, the Owls struggled to break down Wolves’ defence. In fact, Westwood had to be alert to foil Afobe after another terrific surging run by the former Arsenal graduate.
In added on time, Lavery nodded over McGugan’s corner following a downward header by Lees on a night to forget for Gray’s mid-table outfit.