Sheffield Wednesday v Sunderland: Done at the death – Owls crash out of play-offs after late heartbreak

Sheffield Wednesday and late goals. It’s been a problem all season – and it proved so once again in a heart-breaking evening against Sunderland.

By Joe Crann
Monday, 9th May 2022, 9:56 pm

There will be dissections, there will be questions asked. Some will question Moore’s suitability for this job and – rightly or wrongly – his future will be brought into question. But for now it’s just disappointment.

Disappointment for those thrown away leads. Disappointment over the umpteen set piece goals conceded. Disappointment for every missed opportunity. The lottery of the play-offs was required because of them.

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Sheffield Wednesday's Lee Gregory reacts after a challenge on Sunderland's Dennis Cirkin during the Sky Bet League One play-off semi-final, second leg match at Hillsborough, Sheffield. Picture: Zac Goodwin/PA Wire.

And those injuries… All those injuries.

The visitors had a decent start to the game, getting a few decent balls behind Wednesday lines, but after the first 15 minutes it was all over to the hosts. They probed, without being too threatening, but any form of impetus they tried to create was halted by goalkicks that took an age and plenty of other stoppages.

James Linington’s lenient approach to the Black Cats’ ‘dark arts’ created an ill-tempered affair early on, and both George Byers and Barry Bannan found themselves booked inside 30 minutes.

The Owls were kept at arms’ length by the visitors, whose plan was working to a tee, but they thought they’d fashioned an opportunity as Josh Windass was bundled to the floor by Dennis Cirkin – the referee waved it away, however.

Sunderland's Patrick Roberts (second right) celebrates scoring their side's first goal of the game during the Sky Bet League One play-off semi-final, second leg match at Hillsborough. Picture: Zac Goodwin/PA Wire.

Halftime came and went, and Sunderland found themselves with another run of half chances. Wednesday, however, stood firm – though were unable to fashion anything major at the other end as they grew increasingly frustrated.

With Nathaniel Mendez-Laing and Callum Paterson stripped off and ready to come on, Moore was forced to change his mind after a collision that left Sam Hutchinson bloodied and bruised. Liam Palmer replaced him, and NML came in for Hunt.

It wasn’t looking good for Wednesday, who couldn’t seem to break down the door. Until master creator, picker of locks, Barry Bannan, took things into his own hands.

With a flick of his left foot he split it wide open.

Sheffield Wednesday's Sam Hutchinson leaves the game with an injury during the Sky Bet League One play-off semi-final, second leg match at Hillsborough. Zac Goodwin/PA Wire.

He found Johnson, who found Gregory – and Wednesday’s number nine doesn’t miss those. 1-0 on the night, and game on. Hillsborough erupted.

There was a final twist of the knife for the hosts though. And it was an all-too-familiar story. In a rare foray forward, Jack Clarke drove a ball into the box, and Patrick Roberts was on hand. 1-1.

It knocked the stuffing out of the Owls, out of the crowd. It felt cruel on a frustrating night – but a late goal, from a cross, is sadly nothing new.

Wednesday came close, and there’s no shame in losing to this Sunderland side, but six more points would’ve sealed automatic promotion. The players set lofty ambitions, the manager’s intentions were clear to see when the season started - and fans wanted more as well.

Barry Bannan congratulates Lee Gregory after his goal that put Sheffield Wednesday in front on the night Pic Streve Ellis

But after those dissections, those questions, that disappointment, we’ll go again. Wednesdayite bums will still be on seats, League One stadiums across the country will still be bathed in blue and white. That won’t change.

A big summer awaits.