Owls match verdict and reaction: Burnley 3 Sheffield Wednesday 1

Despair for Liam Palmer. Pictures: Steve Ellis
Despair for Liam Palmer. Pictures: Steve Ellis
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An exasperated Liam Palmer thumped the turf twice in disgust after failing to prevent Andre Gray from marking his home debut with a goal.

The pain and anguish was etched all over the full-back’s face as Burnley’s record signing netted in the dying minutes to dent Wednesday’s proud recent record at Turf Moor.

Palmer, who has come through the ranks at Hillsborough, cut an annoyed, frustrated figure.

He had every right to be.

The final scoreline may suggest this was a routine Clarets victory, but it was anything but.

The Owls more than held their own against a side who were competing in the Premier League last season. Carlos Carvalhal’s men had Burnley on the ropes for a 20-25-minute period in the second half of an absorbing ‘War of the Roses’ clash, trading blows with one of the Championship’s powerhouses.

At 1-1, chances were created. But they were spurned by Fernando Forestieri, Barry Bannan, Atdhe Nuhiu and Ross Wallace.

Ultimately, the Clarets capitalised on the visitors’ inability to deliver a knockout punch.

Gray’s strike in added on time flattered the hosts and compounded Wednesday’s misery.

Tom Lees acknowledged: “We played some very good stuff at times and controlled the game. We looked threatening and played some good football so to come away with nothing is disappointing.”

Atdhe Nuhiu scores

Atdhe Nuhiu scores

Yet again the Owls’ firepower shortage will come under scrutiny. For all his gifts, Forestieri is unlikely to weigh in with the amount of goals that can catapult Wednesday to the next level.

Recruiting a player with a proven track record of finding the back of the net should have been at the top of Wednesday’s summer shopping list. That type of centre-forward commands a big salary, costs a hefty transfer fee and is inevitably the hardest to pin down. But that prolific striker could have made all the difference on Saturday.

Another area of concern is the defence. As a collective, they are making far too many sloppy errors.

Sam Hutchinson gave a needless free-kick away in a dangerous position to hand David Jones the opportunity to curl in a seventh minute opener, Glenn Loovens was shrugged off too easily by Gray in the build-up to the second and Palmer messed up for the third.

Tom Lees

Tom Lees

Wednesday didn’t deserve to leave the Lancashire outfit empty-handed for the first time since 2000. Carvalhal claimed it was their best performance of the season.

However, it is easy to see why the Owls have recorded just one clean sheet in their last 13 fixtures on the road.

The top sides in the division will continue to punish them if they carry on defending so naively as a unit. It seems opponents are seizing the initiative every time Wednesday switch off at the moment.

“I felt all right at the back,” insisted Lees. “Coming into the game, I thought personally it would be one of my toughest tests of the season.

“Sam Vokes and Andre Gray are never easy to play against but I felt comfortable and didn’t feel threatened much in the game.

“It was a bad few moments from us that gifted them the goals rather than us defending poorly. They didn’t have to do a lot to earn those goals.

New boy Barry Bannan

New boy Barry Bannan

“We have seen teams like this before where you play all the nice stuff and you get nothing. Unfortunately that is not good enough.”

With the Owls shipping six goals in their last two outings, admittedly against two of the big hitters in the league, Lees accepts the Owls’ backline must quickly shore things up.

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“We kept a lot of clean sheets last season; it is what we built our success on,” he said. “Even when we didn’t keep a clean sheet, we rarely conceded more than one or two. We are not happy with the defence and it’s something we need to work on. It is vital we tighten things up.”

Carvalhal rotated his squad, choosing to make seven alterations, and switch to a 4-4-2 formation. He handed debuts to Daniel Pudil, Bannan and Forestieri, who was deployed just behind Nuhiu up front.

There were some promising individual displays. Young goalkeeper Joe Wildsmith, making his first league start for the Owls, enhanced his burgeoning reputation with an assured performance, producing two smart saves with his feet in the second half.

Pudil slotted in well at left-back, whipping in a delightful cross for Nuhiu to claim his second goal of the campaign.

The little and large combination of Forestieri and Nuhiu caused Burnley problems.

Now the Owls have got to take those positives away with them and use this loss as a motivation to improve their form, starting at Bolton Wanderers tomorrow night.

BURNLEY: Heaton 6; Darikwa 7, Duff 6, Keane 6, Mee 6; Boyd 6, Jones 7, Arfield 6, Kightly 6 (Taylor 62, 6); Vokes 6 (Hennings 77), Gray 7 (Long 90). Substitutes: Gilks, Ward, Lowton, Anderson.

WEDNESDAY: Wildsmith 7; Palmer 5, Lees 7, Loovens 5, Pudil 7; Wallace 5 (Matias 76), Hutchinson 6, Lee 6, Bannan 6 (Joao 81); Forestieri 6, Nuhiu 6. Substitutes: Price, Turner, Semedo, Helan, Lopez.

Referee: Stephen Martin (Staffordshire).

Attendance: 17,277.