Scrambling Sheffield Wednesday raise themselves from the doldrums to earn a point at Cheltenham Town
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Avoidable goals, an inability to grapple control of proceedings and missed opportunities going forward; all criticisms foreign to the Owls heading into a Hillsborough draw with Bolton Wanderers just 12 days previously. And for much of a back-and-forth battle at the Completely-Suzuki Stadium, they were raised once more.
Down and out with 15 minutes to go; fractured and frazzled, goals from Aden Flint and Lee Gregory earned a point to end a run of two defeats. Though their run of matches without a win was stretched to four, the nature of their fightback will be the optimists’ talking point.
A mile or so from the spiritual home of horse racing the going was soft-to-absolutely-sodden after a pre-match downpour stretched long into the match itself – one goalmouth in particular was of genuine concern pre-match – but when things eased after half an hour the only worry was Wednesday’s lame start.
A leveller the conditions certainly were, but not so much that the home side – in contrasting recent form to the visitors and with 10 days rest – should have had the better of things going forward so consistently.
The opening exchanges were Cheltenham’s, Alfie May the star of the show early doors causing problems for the re-jigged Owls back three. A former player of Darren Moore’s at Doncaster Rovers, he came in with four in four – and showed every piece of confidence you’d expect.
With May and Aidan Keena tormentors in chief, it was at the other end that an Owls player impressed.
Moore’s decision to remove Cameron Dawson from the firing line in place of David Stockdale was a bold one and followed the precedent set back in December when roles were reversed. The veteran keeper repaid his boss immediately, making a string of impressive saves in difficult conditions and taking the crown as the Owls’ foremost performer in a frantic first half.
At the start of the second, a stunning cross from Reece James to find Michael Smith at the back post proposed a sign of brighter things to come but it was a false signal, the Robins able to come back into things soon afterwards.
And as they pressed their case and a ball came spinning inside the Owls box to Dominic Iorfa on 62 minutes, as time slowed down and as Iorfa’s feet were caught in a muddle, it was Keena who pounced to smash past Stockdale. Seven minutes later a headache turned migraine when May made it two.
What of Wednesday’s response? Initially fractured, prompting a sense of ‘Oh no not this again’ all too familiar to Wednesday supporters.
That was until Aden Flint, on for Iorfa, headed past Southwood on 76 minutes. Lee Gregory shot over, Mallik Wilks headed wide on his return.
The demeanour of the Owls was a little concerning. Fractured, at times argumentative. They needed to pull together fast.
And when Lee Gregory poked home from Smith’s cross is showed a glimpse of the Wednesday of a fortnight ago; of the bustling, fighting Wednesday that went 23 matches unbeaten and seemed to be carrying them to a breezy title win.
Ipswich Town and Barnsley will have been watching with a wry smile for much of the match. How it must have dropped when Will Vaulks’ shot raced towards the Robins’ goal in the last second. That is slammed the post was a gut-wrench – what a moment that could have been.
There are twists and turns to come in this League One promotion race. Wednesday leave back-to-back Gloucestershire away days with a point.
It could be worth a lot more. Buckle up.