Mention the FA Cup to Lee Bullen and his eyes light up and a big smile breaks across his face.
“I love the competition,” stressed the Scot after Saturday’s goalless draw at League Two Carlisle United. “It is brilliant.”
But there was to be no winning send-off for Bullen as the depleted Owls fired a blank for the third successive match.
Watched from the stands by new boss Jos Luhukay, Wednesday dominated for long periods but lacked a cutting edge in the final third.
Bullen said: “Attitude was the most important thing after the Burton game.
“To be fair, the players held their hands up after it, but that shouldn’t take away from the performance. They have been great in training and gone out and showed the right attitude because coming to a place like Carlisle, you know that they are regarding you as a bit wounded. It could have been very easy to get sucked under.
“I think the fans showed a little bit of appreciation towards that, even though they are still hurting a lot as well.”
Carlisle, marshalled superbly by Clint Hill on his 650th career appearance, sat deep, packed midfield and managed to stifle the Owls.
Things might have been so different had Atdhe Nuhiu, preferred to Jordan Rhodes up front, headed the visitors ahead inside the opening minute after a fine delivery by man of the match Liam Palmer. But Nuhiu’s header rattled the crossbar and the Cumbrians survived that early scare and grew in confidence as the contest wore on.
It just wasn’t Nuhiu’s day in front of goal. His close-range, right-foot drive was pushed to safety by Jack Bonham and the Cumbrians goalkeeper produced a stunning save to keep out the Kosovo international’s downward header in the second half following more excellent work by Palmer at right-back as Wednesday piled on the pressure late on. Lucas Joao’s header struck the post and Ross Wallace’s rasping, left-foot drive flew agonisingly off target to leave the Owls frustrated.
As for Carlisle, Hallam Hope drilled a shot over, Reggie Lambe’s strike was comfortably kept out by Joe Wildsmith and Sam Cosgrove had a goal ruled out for offside.
Bullen said: “Our first half performance was really good and pleasing and they took into account exactly what we had worked on and what we wanted them to do in regards to switching the play early and trying to overload each side with wing-backs.
“But, unfortunately, we never got the breaks in front of goal and it was a bit of a frustrating day, similar to the Burton game - albeit without losing the three goals.
“We knew we would be up against a resolute defence and experienced defenders and the goalie pulled off a wonderful save from big Atty and Lucas hit the post as well.”
GOOD TO HAVE BOYD BACK
A big plus for the Owls was the winger’s long-awaited return to action after recovering from shoulder surgery. He showed glimpses of his quality in the second period.
“It was brilliant to have George back and good to get minutes for Marco Matias,” Bullen said. “Big Atty ran his socks off up there and was a nuisance. Lucas showed his ability in sparks; he just needs to get it more regular. I am just delighted we are in the hat for the next round.”
Ultimately, Bullen’s men were not on the end of a cup upset and live to fight another day.