A home defeat was not the result new Sheffield Wednesday owner Dejphon Chansiri wanted to kick-off his Hillsborough reign.
Chansiri, presented with a framed picture on the pitch and given a warm welcome by Wednesdayites before kick-off, wants to lead Wednesday back into the Premier League by 2017. On this evidence, the Thai businessman will need to give more funds to head coach Stuart Gray to further strengthen the team.
After a promising start, Wednesday pressed the self-destruct button against a Blackburn Rovers side who are not strong on their travels, conceding two sloppy first half goals. They were, at times, unrecognisable from the side who recorded an impressive 2-0 victory over promotion-chasing Middlesbrough last weekend.
Although they produced a spirited and much improved performance in the second half, pulling a goal back courtesy of substitute Chris Maguire, the damage had already been done and, ultimately, they left themselves with too much to do.
The Owls created enough opportunities to salvage a point but their Achilles heel, all season, has been their poor finishing. They remain a work in progress and a late play-off charge now looks beyond them.
Gray made one alteration to his starting line-up, bringing in Sam Hutchinson into midfield, with Kieran Lee making way.
Hutchinson, deployed in an unfamiliar role on the right flank, made his presence felt, producing a couple of trademark sliding challenges on former Owls defender Tommy Spurr.
Oozing confidence following back-to-back victories, Wednesday fashioned the next chance following patient build-up on the left wing. Hutchinson managed to keep alive Dielna’s deep delivery towards the back post and cut the ball back for Keane, who failed to turn the ball in from close range.
Against the run of play, Blackburn went ahead through Rhodes in the 17th minute. The striker tapped in after rounding Keiren Westwood following a neat flick on by Chris Brown after a long throw by Spurr caused havoc.
The Scotland international loves facing Wednesday. Rhodes, whose dad Andy is Wednesday’s goalkeeping coach, has now scored seven goals on his last four visits to Hillsborough.
The Owls tried to hit back and Hutchinson blazed over from an acute angle.
But Blackburn’s opener rattled Wednesday and it took a stunning save by Westwood to prevent Marshall’s downward header from going in. Westwood dived to his right to turn away the former Wednesday man’s attempt. From the resulting corner, Marshall struck the bar and Spurr’s shot was blocked.
The visitors pressure paid off in the 26th minute as they doubled their advantage. Adam Henley registered the first senior goal of his career, slotting a right foot shot past Westwood after latching on to Jay Spearing’s incisive pass. That strike prompted some home fans to chant ‘2-0 to the referee’ as they felt Eddie Ilderton made several questionable decisions throughout the first period. The match official was booed off at half-time.
Wednesday lost their rhythm and way. Westwood had to be alert to keep out Chris Brown’s low drive as Blackburn took control of proceedings.
Gray’s men suffered another blow six minutes before the interval when Jose Semedo was forced off with an injury. Gray had to reshuffle his midfield, moving Hutchinson into the middle of the park and putting substitute Chris Maguire on to give them more width in the wide positions.
It was crucial Wednesday started on the front foot after the interval and Lewis McGugan’s attempt was deflected over after a good lay-off by Keane. Maghoma fed Keane, who failed to test Steele and Wednesday’s appeals for a corner fell on deaf ears.Blackburn should have been awarded a 52nd minute penalty after a clumsy tackle by Chris Taylor but referee Ilderton waved play on.
Things got heated when Spurr brought down Maguire deep inside Blackburn’s half and the left-back became the third Rovers player to go into Ilderton’s notebook.
Sheffield United old boy Matt Kilgallon hacked Maguire’s centre off the line as Wednesday poured forward in numbers.
Following a sustained period of pressure, Wednesday grabbed a deserved lifeline just after the hour mark when Maguire fired home from an acute angle after Steele blocked his initial effort. That lifted the mood around Hillsborough and the Owls sensed a comeback.
But Rhodes continued to be a handful on the counter attack and his lob was well gathered by Westwood.
McGugan, Wednesday’s driving force in the second period, unleashed a rasping free kick from distance which Steele superbly held on to.
In a one-sided half, Blackburn struggled to retain possession up front and Gray threw on Stevie May to increase his attacking options.
With nine minutes remainings, Keane floated a dangerous cross in towards the six-yard box and May went down under a challenge by Henley but his spot-kick claim was rejected by Ilderton.
Kilgallon bravely threw himself at Maguire’s fierce goalbound volley in the closing minutes to leave Wednesday frustrated.
Sheffield Wednesday: Westwood; Palmer, Lees, Zayatte (Helan HT), Dielna; McGugan, Semedo (Maguire 40), Hutchinson, Maghoma (May 69); Keane, Nuhiu. Substitutes: Kirkland, Mattock, Lee, Vermijl
Blackburn Rovers: Steele; Henley, Henry, Kilgallon, Spurr; Taylor, Williamson, Spearing, Marshall, Rhodes, Brown. Substitutes: Eastwood, Cairney, Olsson, Lenihan, Evans, Conway, Gestede.