Match Report: Walsall 2 Sheffield Wednesday 1

Danny Batth up for this corner flicks the ball on.
Danny Batth up for this corner flicks the ball on.
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WEDNESDAY suffered a sickener in stoppage time for the second successive match but this time ended up without even the consolation of a point.

At least they collected some reward in a 4-4 thriller against Huddersfield after conceding an equaliser in the sixth minute of added time.

But victory turned into defeat at Walsall as the home team struck in the first and fourth minutes of overtime.

Ryan Lowe had put the Owls ahead with a headed goal brilliantly created by Chris Lines.

Wednesday then defended solidly under pressure but sub striker Claude Gnakpa equalised with a shot that was unluckily deflected.

The Owls had also lost captain Rob Jones to a back problem and they failed to a clear a free kick that led to the home team’s winner and only a second defeat for Wednesday in 16 games.

The return of Stephen Bywater to Derby resulted in another recall for Richard O’Donnell and a spot on the bench for Arron Jameson, with no place yet for Nicky Weaver because he had been troubled by a tooth abcess.

Lowe was preferred to Sanchez Watt up front.

A lively atmosphere was due mostly to the Wednesday fans but it is normal for this to lift the home side, not only the Owls. and sure enough Walsall made a bright start.

Ben Marshall, James Tavernier and David Prutton over-hit crosses after promising build-up play.

A first clear sight of goal for Wednesday would have been on the cards if Lowe had gone clear through the middle as he turned and centre half Andy Butler challenged: but Lowe went down, no foul was given, and the striker was furious.

Lines’s composure and passing plus Tavernier’s forward runs were a positive element for the Owls. Walsall almost cracked just before half time under a familiar Wednesday weapon, the set piece.

A right-side corner by Marshall was not cleared and Danny Batth momentarily had a close-range chance but he was closed down quickly and his shot was blocked. Batth also did well to get on the end of a Marshall cross but could not keep his header on target.

In the first minute of the second half Marshall made a typical run, of the kind that brought him his classy goal against Huddersfiel. Again he cut inside from the left and tried to pick his spot, but this time lofted the ball past the far post.

In the 53rd minute came the best chance yet - but a goal would have been controversial. Lowe tangled with a defender and left Walsall appealing for a free kick; but play continued, the striker took a return ball from O’Grady and from eight yards shot wide. That did not prevent a mass protest by the home team.

Walsall maybe sensed an opportunity when Rob Jones hobbled off in the 56th minute which meant an outing for Miguel Llera. The sub was soon faced by a darting run from striker Jamie Paterson, who hit the bar from 22 yards.

A minute later Wednesday went in front. Lines began a run in his own half; he held off one opponent to make ground into Walsall’s half on the right side where he knocked the ball past another opponent, beat him on the outside and delivered a first-class cross into the middle for Lowe to glance home a header.

Tumultous celebrations among the away fans were almost followed by a second goal when O’Grady made room for a shot on the turn - but it was well saved at the near post.

Walsall put on fresh legs up front and applied intense pressure which Wednesday relieved in a breakway and could have gone two up; O’Grady muscled past Butler but shot past the post. Then it was Tavernier to the rescue with a penalty-area interception.

But Walsall kept coming and they got their reward in the first of five added minutes. Sub striker Claude Gnakpa ran forward a few paces and let fly from outside the area: the ball took a big deflection and flew into O’Donnell’s bottom right-hand corner, with the keeper given no chance.

And in the fourth minute of added time came worse. Wednesday failed to clear a long free kick from the left touchine to the far post. The ball was allowed to bounce, and centre half Manny Smith turned it in from close range.

The added-time board had shown five extra minutes; it turned out to be six and a half before the whistle went but there was insufficient time for the Owls to recover from two such devastating late blows.