A shocking, ludicrous, inexplicable mistake.
No, I’m not referring to Wednesday’s defending for either of Derby’s goals (but they were both poor to say the least).
Nor do I mean Carlos Carvalhal’s team selection or tactics the Owls employed at the iPro Stadium. He picked the right team and formation to get a positive result against one of their bogey teams.
My intro to this match report, of course, applies to a refereeing howler.
The big flashpoint occurred, according to Carvalhal’s stop watch, after six minutes and 45 seconds.
Ex-Wednesday loanee Scott Carson clawed away a Fernando Forestieri header but the danger was not over, with Gary Hooper putting in a fine low cross to the back post for Adam Reach.
The Owls’ record signing’s shot from inside the six-yard area was heading in but Derby skipper Richard Keogh blocked it near the goal line with his left arm. It was a blatant penalty and Keogh should have been sent off.
However, referee James Linington didn’t see it that way and turned down the visitors’ penalty appeal.
Owls head coach Carvalhal and his coaching staff had every right to be incensed by the decision. It was a stinker and, as a frustrated Carvalhal pointed out post-match, made a “massive difference”.
Credit to Derby, though, for making the most of their slice of good fortune and Steve McClaren’s men secured only their second home win of the campaign after goals either side of half-time by Cyrus Christie and Alex Pearce.
Fair play to McClaren for agreeing with Carvalhal that Keogh should have been punished and Derby were fortunate to not give away a spot-kick. Sometimes managers say ‘I didn’t see’ it after a match but McClaren acknowledged a big call had gone in their favour.
“Keesy (Keogh) made a great save without his gloves on and we rode our luck in that,” he said. “Game’s are turned on that one way or another and it turned our way. What you have to do in those instances is take advantage and that’s what we did.
“It didn’t stop Sheffield Wednesday playing the way they did, they kept coming forward and creating chances, but it was maybe the luck we didn’t have last week we got this week. The ref has to make a snap decision and it went our way.”
What made it worst for Linington was that he had was no more than 10 yards away from the penalty appeal and had a perfect view.
Carvalhal was still fuming several minutes after the controversial decision and was spoken to by the referee.
“In that moment I was emotional but I didn’t say any bad words, and I didn’t do anything wrong in my opinion,” Carvalhal said.
“I don’t understand the decision. People talk a lot about how we need technology but why do we need a camera or a video when we have three referees on the pitch? One of them must see it. They have communication and can say it’s a clear penalty.”
RAMS LIKE PLAYING OWLS
The penalty incident appeared to unsettle Wednesday and Carvalhal’s men switched off in the 17th minute, allowing Christie to head in Tom Ince’s corner. It was only Derby’s second first-half goal this term.
Given the strength in depth and quality at their disposal, the Rams have hugely under-performed so far, but Christie’s opener visibly lifted the team and cranked up the noise inside the ground.
Cameron Dawson, deputising for the injured Keiren Westwood again, pulled off a string of good saves to deny Jamie Hanson and the impressive Tom Ince. Christie and Ince, particularly in the first period, caused Wednesday’s defence all sorts of problems on the right flank. Right-back Christie floated in a teasing cross before the interval and Darren Bent’s header flashed just over.
Midway through the second half, Derby grabbed a killer second after the Owls had spurned several chances to level things up. Pearce slid the ball in from eight yards to claim his first goal since joining the club.
Victory stretched Derby’s unbeaten streak against the Owls to 17 matches, a run going back over a decade. Wednesday will be relieved they don’t play them again until next April.
MUST DO BETTER
It is easy to keep harping on about the ‘Keogh moment’, but this was a frustrating performance by the Owls.
Both of Derby’s goals came from set-plays and, yet again, there was not enough end product to Wednesday’s enterprising approach play. When they did create chances, the Owls fluffed their lines in front of goal, and that has been the story of the season.
Nothing is going right for Fernando Forestieri in the final third. The gifted forward, lining up against the Rams for the first time since they tried to sign him last August, wasted a couple of decent openings to cancel out Christie’s strike but his finishing continues to let him down.
Fresh from signing a two-year contract extension, Liam Palmer arguably came the closest to restoring his parity. The full-back’s 20-yard drive deflected off Pearce and went inches wide. It just wasn’t Wednesday’s day.
Carvalhal stressed: “We played some good football and fought very hard.
“We tried to get the equaliser after Derby went in front, but they counter-attack and this leads to the free-kick and the second goal. This is football sometimes.”
For Wednesday to realise their potential, Carvalhal must iron out their defensive deficiencies and lack of goals or risk losing touch with the chasing pack.