Owls FT: Blackburn Rovers 0 Sheffield Wednesday 0

Thumbs-up from Owls recalled keeper Chris Kirkland
Thumbs-up from Owls recalled keeper Chris Kirkland
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Sheffield Wednesday bounced back from the defeat by Bournemouth to put on a much improved show and earn their second clean sheet of the season.

Although ideally they need to start winning games, a point away against Blackburn was a decent result and well deserved.

The Owls’ workrate, spirit and organisation were reminiscent of the best displays under Stuart Gray and made it two wins and a draw from five matches under him.

With Connor Wickham still out, perhaps it was no surprise that the team were unable to score.

But they did not sit back and defend: they produced some constructive stuff going forward at times, even if it did lack an end product.

The recalled Chris Kirkland played his part with some competent saves and was saluted by chants of “England’s number one” from happy Wednesday fans at the end.

Gray made four changes to the side that started the Bournemouth game and adopted the same sort of tactics that worked in the 1-0 victory at Watford.

He had a lone central striker, this time Atdhe Nuhiu instead of the injured Wickham; used Kieran Lee to help fill the centre of a five-man midfield, and utilised the pace of Jacques Maghoma and Jeremy Helan on the flanks.

A link-up between Nuhiu and Maghoma led to the first chance in the third minute. It brought a free kick, curled into the middle by Stephen McPhail - Nuhiu failed to connect with a close-range header but Simon Eastwood still had to fling himself to his right to stop the ball finding the corner.

Wednesday enjoyed some early possession against a Rovers side playing 4-4-2 but they had a close call when Jordan Rhodes got in behind them in the 13th minute and sought his 14th goal of the season - his shot was deflected into the side-netting.

The Owls started well enough to quieten the home crowd and encourage their following of around 3,000.

Semedo made a strong run in the box and found McPhail; Nuhiu tried to head the midfielder’s floated cross back across goal but good defending intervened.

Wednesday knocked the ball around confidently at times and stopped Rovers from getting anywhere near Kirkland for most of the first half.

From the 32nd minute, however, came a brief spell of pressure.

A counter-attack made a half-chance for ex-Owls loan star Ben Marshall, whose slightly deflected effort was stopped by Kirkland. Then Roger Johnson tried to head the ball back to Kirkland but presented Rhodes with an opening; again the keeper would not be beaten

Nuhiu tried to add a cutting edge to Wednesday’s solid game, when he soared to meet a free kick by McPhail but Eastwoood touched the header over the bar.

Blackburn winger Chris Taylor was carried off in first-half stoppage time after Glenn Loovens collided heavily with him in clearing the ball near the halfway line.Rovers began the second half as if they had been urged to take the game to Wednesday.

The Owls answered with a quick break that ended in a cross by Helan and a fruitless corner.

But they were caught out by a Rovers counter-attack: striker Rudy Gestede sprinted in behind Loovens, and out came Kirkland to block the shot, in the 53rd minute.

Nuhiu showed lovely control before slipping a delightful pass to Lee: once again, however, there was no end product for Wednesday in the attacking third.

They could still take satisfaction from the way they were combating Rovers and preventing them from building up a head of steam.

Next it took an individual burst from sub left winger Josh King to open Wednesday up: he beat Liam Palmer and crossed beyond the far post where midfielder Tom Cairney, off balance, hooked a sharp chance way off target.

Jermaine Johnson and Rhys McCabe came on as fresh legs for Maghoma and McPhail, with McPhail having made a neat and tidy comeback.

With six minutes of normal time left, Gray replaced Nuhiu with Joe Mattock; that meant Reda Johnson being thrust up front, like he was in the Bournemouth game.

It was also a reminder about the club’s shortage of strikers, and Gray elected not used Chris Maguire, now back from his loan at Coventry

The caretaker manager’s changes saw starts for Kirkland, fit-again Loovens, McPhail and Helan.

Maguire came in on the bench after his return from his Coventry loan spell, and was joined there by Damian Martinez, Miguel Llera and Jermaine Johnson; there was no place at all for Giles Coke.

It was a big day for Blackburn left back Tommy Spurr because it was his first competitive game against the club with whom he grew up.

The defender said in the match programme: “They gave me my chance in football, which I’ll never forget.”

Spurr had a sound game - and took a couple of very long throws.Marshall was voted the home team’s match of the match. But Wednesday largely kept Blackburn quiet.

The abandoned game against Wigan has been rearranged for Tuesday, February 11, 7.45pm.

ROVERS: Eastwood 7, Henley 7, Dann 7, Hanley 7, Spurr 7, Marshall 7, Lowe 6, Cairney 6 (Rochina 81), Gestede 6 (Williamson 61, 6), Taylor 7 (King 45+5, 7), Rhodes 6. Subs: Kean, Kane, Kilgallon, Campbell.

OWLS: Kirkland 8, Palmer 7, Roger Johnson 8, Loovens 8, Reda Johnson 7, Lee 6, Semedo 7, McPhail 7 (McCabe 78), Maghoma 6 (J Johnson 75), Helan 6, Nuhiu 7 (Mattock 84). Subs: Martinez, Maguire, Llera, Olofinjana.

Bookings: Henley, Spurr.

Referee: David Coote (Notts)