Sheffield Wednesday match verdict: Owls 1 Charlton Athletic 1

Caolan Lavery scores. Picture: Steve Ellis
Caolan Lavery scores. Picture: Steve Ellis
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There remained one standout talking point after Saturday’s clash between the Championship’s warriors of the wasteland ended in a stalemate.

It was not Keiren Westwood’s breathtaking first-half save to deny Charlton full-back Morgan Fox from point-blank range range. It was not even Caolan Lavery and Lloyd Isgrove each hitting the woodwork twice in the space of a minute after the Addicks’ equaliser.

No, all Wednesdayites probably talked about on Saturday night and will still be reflecting on today at work is Atdhe Nuhiu’s glaring late miss. How the Football League Show failed to include that opportunity in their highlights package I will never know.

No Owls player divides opinion more on the terraces than Nuhiu. Standing at 6ft 6in tall, the former Austrian Under-21 international is a focal point up front. Nuhiu, nicknamed ‘Big Dave’, is one of the tallest players in English football and his sheer size, physicality and presence creates space for his teammates.

Nuhiu leads the way in the goalscoring charts and enjoyed a fine start to the campaign, hitting four of his 10 goals in the opening month of the season.

But, despite his improved performances, the 25-year-old’s finishing has left a lot to be desired at times this term.

With the goal at his mercy in the 84th minute, Nuhiu some how contrived to head over fellow substitute Stevie May’s inviting cross. It was an awful miss, prompting Nuhiu to apologise to his teammates in the dressing room following Wednesday’s 11th Hillsborough draw.

Owls boss Stuart Gray said: “Forwards are there to be shot at.

“Attey is our top scorer but he knows he has to score that chance. He came in and apologised to the boys. He feels like he let the team down but we had chances before that to score.

“Attey thinks he’s cost us two points. He will probably relieve that moment 100 times tonight. He’s got to put it away. That’s his job.”

Gray said Wednesday will rally round and help Nuhiu turn around his fortunes.

“We have a very tight-knit dressing room and we stay together, no matter what the result,” he insisted. “Everyone is disappointed for Attey.

“But what is said in the dressing room will stay there. Players don’t mean to miss chances or play badly.”

While Nuhiu and May’s lack of composure in the final third continues to repeatedly cost the Owls dearly, Gray has refused to solely blame his misfiring forward line for the team slipping to 13th.

He stressed: “It is not just Attey who should be scoring goals. There are other people who should have scored and I want them to chip in.

“We’ve got to get more goals from set-plays and get defenders chipping in with goals. I think Tom Lees has scored lots of goals at previous clubs but at the moment he’s not got one for us this season, which is disappointing.

“We are not getting enough goals throughout the team. We attack with 11 and defend with 11.”

Both Wednesday and Charlton are caught in a no man’s land, where they can’t go up or down. They are battling it out for a top-half finish. Some observers claimed they had little to play for other than pride.

Nonetheless, that didn’t stop the Owls from creating a couple of clear-cut openings in a first half packed full of endeavour but low on quality, with Lavery curling a shot inches wide before Lewis McGugan fired a weak effort at Stephen Henderson following a four-on-two counter-attack.

Charlton, who shaded the early skirmishes, felt aggrieved that they had a strike disallowed after quarter of an hour. Chris Eagles expertly lifted the ball over the advancing Westwood but the former Owls loanee’s goal was ruled out for offside.

“We had great chances and also the goal that Eagles scored was onside, not offside, and if the referee had seen it it would have been a completely different game because we had the patience and the space to counter-attack in,” said Addicks boss Guy Luzon.

Westwood, arguably Gray’s best piece of business in the transfer market, twice denied Simon Church before brilliantly keeping out Fox’s drive. The defender turned away with his hands on his head in disbelief at Westwood’s remarkable stop.

It proved a big moment as the Owls went ahead in the 41st minute when Lavery pounced to claim his second goal in four outings following a lovely cross by Lewis Buxton, who made his first start in over six months.

Gray, missing four defenders due to injuries, including Glenn Loovens and Liam Palmer, said: “I thought Lewis and Kamil Zayatte were our best two defenders. Kamil was dominant in the air and Lewis did well.

“Lewis has not had much football this season but I felt we needed an experienced, older head in there because our back four has been a little disjointed with injuries. Lewis’s reading and use of the ball was excellent and he got forward well.”

Lavery caused Charlton’s defence problems all afternoon. The 22-year-old’s looping header after the interval was tipped over by Henderson and he struck the post with a thunderous shot from distance moments after Johann Berg Gudmundsson smashed in the leveller after Westwood could only parry Eagles’ strike. He was forced off in the closing stages with a minor calf problem but was given a standing ovation by the home faithful.

Gray said: “Lavs has waited for his opportunity to get a run-out. I know he has got goals in him. His ball retention was good and he caused their two centre-backs problems. He’s got a couple of tricks in him and can run at people.

“He’s a hungry player and wants to do well. He knows he’s got competition in front of him. But, at the moment, he’s got the shirt and it’s up to him to keep the shirt. He knows if he keeps putting in performances like that he’s going to be starting.

“Lavs always wants to do finishing drills and he’s always the last one off the training pitch. His allround performance was excellent but he’s got to do it on a consistent level.”

Lavery admits he is loving life back at Hillsborough following a productive loan stint with Chesterfield.

“I’m enjoying it,” he said. “I have missed a lot of the season.

“I feel back to myself. It took me a bit longer than I thought it would to get back to my best but the club sent me on loan to Chesterfield to get my sharpness back and I feel good.

“I want to play for Sheffield Wednesday. Every time I play, I want to do my best and work as hard as I can. I’ve been lucky enough to start the last couple of games. I think I’ve been doing well and I just want to continue doing that this season.”

Despite Lavery’s best efforts, Wednesday threw away another two home points. As the forward conceded, the hosts created enough chances to win but their lack of ruthlessness came back to haunt them yet again.

It is, as Gray keeps pointing out, that final piece in the jigsaw which the Owls are still searching for. They have one of the worst home records in the division and average less than a goal per match.

It is a familiar tale of woe which no doubt chairman Dejphon Chansiri will be looking to address in the summer.

Wednesday: Westwood 7; Buxton 7, Zayatte 7, Lees 6, Helan 6; Maguire 7, Hutchinson 6, McGugan 6 (Lee 71**), Isgrove 7; Lavery 8 (May 79***), Bus 6 (Nuhiu 71*). Substitutes: Kirkland, Maghoma, Vermijl, Kelhar.

Charlton: Henderson 7; Solly 6, Gomez 7, Johnson 7, Fox 7; Gudmundsson 7, Buyens 6, Cousins 6, Eagles 7 (Diarra 81**); Church 6 (Watt 58* 6), Vetokele 6. Substitutes: Dmitrovic, Wiggins, Bulot, Lennon, Lepoint.

Manager’s view -Stuart Gray: “I watched the Derby versus Brentford match earlier today and they had chance after chance and, you know, it will haunt you if you don’t stick those chances away. Obviously we went 1-0 up, we had chances to get that second goal, but credit to Charlton because they stuck at it and got that equaliser. We should have won the game two or three nil.”

Manager’s view -Guy Luzon: “Sheffield Wednesday played better, with more tempo, but it is good that we know how to respond to this moment. The last two months we have shown a lot of character. When we are 1-0 down we know how to come back and we can win these kinds of games. But it was a good game and I think it was a fair result.”

Hero: Caolan Lavery is in a rich vein of form. Led the line intelligently and put in a great shift up front and was in the right place at the right time to convert Lewis Buxton’s low delivery. Was unlucky not to add to his tally.

Key moment: Atdhe Nuhiu’s chance. Had the big striker tucked in Stevie May’s cross in the 84th minute, Wednesday would probably have recorded their fifth Hillsborough success. But Nuhiu fluffed his lines and the Owls were forced to settle for another home draw.

Viewpoint: It is groundhog day for Stuart Gray and Wednesday. They are sliding down the table because of their inability to punish teams when they are on top. They dominated the second half but let Charlton off the hook. Tomorrow’s clash with promotion-chasing Brentford will be a real test of character.

Ref watch: Darren Bond. The Lancashire official issued four bookings, including cautions to Jeremy Helan and Sam Hutchinson for clumsy tackles. Handled things well, although Charlton felt aggrieved that Chris Eagles’ 15th-minute strike was not allowed to stand.

Attendance: 23,257.