Sheffield Wednesday: Jacques in the box

Owls Jacques Maghoma is tripped by QPR midfielder Joey Barton in the penalty area but the referee awards no spot-kick. Picture: Steve Ellis.
Owls Jacques Maghoma is tripped by QPR midfielder Joey Barton in the penalty area but the referee awards no spot-kick. Picture: Steve Ellis.
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Did Wednesday’s 3,000 fans slink away disgruntled by an opening-day defeat?

Not at all; when the opening bars of Hi Ho Silver Lining began to play after the final whistle almost all of them stayed behind to give two rousing choruses with appropriate lyrics while home fans sang theirs.

There was applause too for the players in black - recognition of a how close the Owls came to causing an upset result against promotion favourites who have a Premier League pedigree.

QPR seem to have nicked the Hillsborough anthem and they got away with all three points thanks to a mixture of flawed refereeing, a brief dodgy spell for Wednesday in which the Hoops scored twice, and a chance badly missed.

The Owls showed the spirit, endeavour and organisation that brightened the second half of last season and carried them to safety.

In Chris Kirkland they had a man in top form. If only the same compliment could be paid to referee Scott Mathieson from Cheshire.

His handling of the opening-day 2-2 draw at Derby last year left no bad memory.

But his performance on Saturday was very nearly the only thing that Dave Jones spoke about in a 16-minute press conference.

Jones was entitled to be livid.

From the height and distance of the press box, much further away than the referee, I was not totally sure about the first big decision, in the 37th minute.

But replays showed that the Owls manager was right.

Michail Antonio, in behind last man Armand Traore after a great ball from David Prutton, was knocked off balance.

It should have been penalty, a red card for the left-back for denying a goalscoring opportunity, and a 2-0 lead for

Wednesday to follow a terrific debut goal for Atdhe Nuhiu.

There was no doubt about the second turning point.

Even from long distance, it looked like contact between Joey Barton’s right leg and Jacques Maghoma as the winger went past him.

The referee had a good view, the cameras an even better one.

Again it should have been a penalty, and possibly a sending-off for a second yellow card, as Barton had been booked a few moments earlier for a foul.

But, to add insult to injury, it was Maghoma who was cautioned, for diving.

So Wednesday would probably have got back to 2-2 with around half an hour left, and earlier should have equalised when Antonio lifted a golden chance over the bar after Jermaine Johnson did everything right.

Maghoma hit the post with a crisp low strike inside the last 20 minutes and it just was not Wednesday’s day.

But there were positives, principally four blocks by Kirkland.

Kamil Zayatte made a generally solid debut, and it was great start by Nuhiu - whose name was repeatedly misprounced by a TV commentator. (It’s NOO-ee-oo).

The striker, who had stabbed an earlier chance wide, won the ball with determination in a tackle, cut inside another opponent and drilled his left-foot shot into the bottom corner from the edge of the box.

Short of match practice and unused to the tempo of an occasion such as this, he flagged predictably and was taken off near the end.

“He just needs to get fitter and the get used to the pace of the game,” said Jones.

“He and Kamil both did really well and will be a force for us.

“Atdhe (pronounced Attie) just needs to get sharper. He looked a bit leggy, particularly in the second half.

“He took his goal well and was unlucky not to get another. He’ll get better and better as he gets fitter.

“It was a good game. I feel sorry for my players. They worked hard. Michail should have scored. We were unlucky when Jacques hit the post.

“They had one or two chances when we were chasing the game but overall I thought we deserved something.”

It was hard to argue against that sentiment, but Jones was honest enough to admit that the Owls seemed to “switch off” briefly after losing Joe Mattock to a knee injury in the 36th minute and immediately being denied a penalty.

Jeremy Helan had to move to left-back, and Maghoma came on to the left wing.

Loose defending contributed towards QPR’s goals in the little spell where Wednesday, as a team, looked a bit uneasy.

“We were a bit disjointed,” said Jones. “I can’t blame the referee for that. He has cost us the game but we also caused our own downfall with that spell of 10-15 minutes.

“We weren’t at full concentration. But we kept going and I’m absolutely delighted with them.

“We took the game to QPR, we worked hard and created chances, against a team’s being tipped as promotion candtitates.

“There wasn’t anything between the two teams.”

But Jones, who was angered by many refereeing decisions last season, could not help but give Mathieson both barrels. He said the ref had a “shocker”, the no-penalty decisions were “two big mistakes”, and something has to be done about refereeing standards.

Jone suggested: “Maybe bring them into the clubs, see what’s a dive, what’s not a dive. It’s not just about knowing the rules - it’s about knowing the game.”