Substitute Stevie May bagged his seventh goal of the campaign as Sheffield Wednesday drew 1-1 with relegation-threatened Fulham at Hillsborough this afternoon.
May’s header looked like it would settle a scrappy hard-fought contest but Matt Smith 75th minute goal ensured the Cottagers returned to the capital with a share of the spoils.
Sam Hutchinson kept his place in midfield, having shrugged off a foot problem he sustained against Blackpool last week.
Skipper Glenn Loovens (ankle), Kamil Zayatte (hamstring), midfielder Jose Semedo (foot) and Sergiu Bus (groin) remain on the sidelines.
Fulham, without Alex Kacaniklic, Lasse Vigen Christensen and George Williams due to injury, made four alterations, including handing a debut to new signing Michael Turner.
Both sides cancelled each other out in the opening skirmishes. Chris Maguire and Claude Dielna fired over from distance while Scotland international Ross McCormack looked Fulham’s biggest threat at the other end.
On a tricky playing surface, there were plenty of wayward passes and players miscontrolling the ball.
A brilliant crossfield pass by Claude Dielna caught out Fulham left-back Kostas Stafylidis in the 15th minute. Kieran Lee hooked a teasing cross into the six-yard box but Shaun Hutchinson snuffed out the danger.
There was some neat build-up play at times but very little end product. Lewis McGugan fed Maguire, who cut inside and unleashed a fierce low right foot shot which Marcus Bettinelli smartly turned award.
Wednesday had to re-organise their backline in the 28th minute as Liam Palmer was forced off after picking up an injury following a collision with Scott Parker. There was a lengthy break in play as the Worksop-player was taken off on a stretcher and replaced by Manick Vermijl.
Things got even worse for the Owls as Keane picked up an injury following a challenge with Turner. The striker, on loan from Manchester United, tried to shake off the problem but was unable to continue. Stevie May came on to partner Atdhe Nuhiu up front.
On the stroke of half-time, Wednesday threatened to open the scoring when Maguire cleverly flicked on Dielna’s centre but Stafylidis ultimately hacked the ball away.
May wasted a good opportunity to make an instant impact. He fired tamely at Bettinelli after a neat knock down by Nuhiu.
Wednesday deservedly broke the deadlock in the 55th minute, with May glancing in McGugan’s inviting delivery.
May’s strike rocked Fulham and Atdhe Nuhiu almost turned in a second from close range after Tom Lees nodded down McGugan’s corner.
Wednesday piled on the pressure and Vermijl, who was yellow carded earlier following a late tackle on McCormack, tried his luck from distance, forcing Bettinelli into a smart stop at his near post. From the resulting corner, Nuhiu headed straight at the Fulham goalkeeper.
It took a brave header by Claude Dielna to stop Tim Hoogland’s goalbound attempt troubling Keiren Westwood as Fulham briefly caused the Owls’ backline one or two problems.
But Wednesday’s attack always looked more menacing and McGugan’s drive was deflected wide by Jazz Richards after good play by Maguire on the left flank.
With 15 minutes remaining, Fulham levelled things up courtesy of Smith, whose rasping shot went in off the crossbar after the Owls switched off defensively after referee Andy Woolmer had turned down Cauley Woodrow’s penalty shout.
Westwood had to be alert to cut out Stafylidis’ cross and then foil McCormack as Fulham pressed for a winner.
The Republic of Ireland international sprinted out of his goal in the 80th minute to prevent Smith from bagging his and the visitors second. Stafylidis blazed over the rebound from an acute angle.
Moments later, McCormack lifted a free kick on to the top of the net after a clumsy challenge by Hutchinson on Smith just outside the penalty area.
Smith tested the reflexes of Westwood in the closing stages but Wednesday stayed resolute and held on for a point.
Wednesday: Westwood; Palmer, Lees, Dielna, Helan; Lee, McGugan, Hutchinson, Maguire, Nuhiu, Keane. Substitutes: Kirkland, Buxton, Mattock, May, Maghoma, Melo, Vermijl.
Fulham: Bettinelli, Richards, Turner, Hutchinson, Stafylidis, Hoogland, Parker, Tunnicliffe, Kavanagh, Smith, McCormack. Substitutes: Kiraly, Bodurov, Fofana, Roberts, Woodrow, Rodallega, Grimmer.
Referee: Andy Woolmer (Northamptonshire).