Brian Laws fell to his first defeat as Owls boss as Wednesday’s impressive upturn in results came to an abrupt end at the Ricoh Arena thanks to a brace from Leon McKenzie – and a little help from referee Neil Swarbrick who sent Wade Small and Chris Brunt off before the break.
The match will be remembered for all the wrong reasons, but the Sky Blues got the afternoon off to a fantastic start by paying tribute to the two Wednesday fans who died on the way back from the Ricoh Last season.
The club displayed a message on the scoreboard while playing ‘Hi Ho Silver Lining’ to the delight of the 4,300 travelling away support, and the Coventry fans, who joined in in rememberance.
Micky Adams’ men had lost their last three matches, including two at ‘fortress Ricoh’, and their determination to set the record straight was soon apparant as they came out all guns blazing against an Owls side that had won four of their last five matches.
But the first action of the half was to prove costly for the Owls as Wade Small saw red on 14 minutes for an apparant punch on Michael Doyle. Owls boss Brian Laws pointed to the fact that Small had been grabbed in the nether regions to the former MK Dons winger’s reaction.
Despite being reduced to 10-men, Wednesday took the lead just seven minutes later as a Chris Brunt corner went straight by City stopper Andy Marshall and in to the back of the net to send the travelling Wednesday fans barmy.
But the Owls hardly had time to catch their breathe before the hosts found the equaliser in the most unfortunate of ways for the Owls.
Former Norwich City hitman Leon McKenzie broke free down the left-hand side and provided a cross which seemingly looked to be going harmlessly across the face of goal – but a mix-up between John Hills and Madjid Bougherra saw the latter bundle the ball over the line.
Substitute Colin Cameron forced Mark Crossley in to a top-class save just after the half-hour mark while Jay Tabb almost gained the lead for the hosts with a superb long-range effort which cannoned off the woodwork.
And just as things couldn’t get any worse for Wednesday, the referee decided it would be more fun to see the hosts play against nine men – and duly sent Chris Brunt off for what anyone else would deem as a simple tangle of the legs.
The decision had rattled Owls fans and players alike but Coventry were in no mood to look a gift horse in the mouth and pushed forward in search of goals – but a resiliant Owls defence held out until the break.
Half-Time: Coventry 1-1 Wednesday
Laws had to make changes at the break and moved Tudgay in to a sole striker role, with Burton O’Brien replacing Deon Burton to move in to midfield.
But Wednesday’s stubborn defence didn’t hold out long as former Norwich man McKenzie turned the game for the hosts with two fine strikes in the space of three minutes.
The first contained another element of luck as Birchall saw his long-range effort take a huge deflection which saw Crossley spill his save straight in to the path of the oncoming McKenzie who couldn’t fail to score in an open goal.
And number two wasn’t far behind as McKenzie arrived on cue to slot home a Birchall cross and make it 3-1 on 55 minutes – but if the Sky Blues’ fans had expected the flood gates to open they had another thing coming as a battling Wednesday side held out for the final half-hour and even had chances of their own to take a result back to S6.
Graham Coughlan was sent on with 20 minutes to go and almost got Wednesday back in the game on the 70th minute as he forced a world-class save from Marshall from a Kenny Lunt corner.
The hosts made the most of their two-man advantage posession-wise as the Owls saw a number of good chances wasted by the hosts – namely through Birchall and Doyle.
But Wednesday were twice denied in the closing stages as Marshall showed his determination not to be beaten for a second time with impressive saves from a deflected Tudgay effort and a Steve Maclean shot.
But despite the brave efforts of the Owls, Brian Laws was to return north pointless – and two players down for the crunch clash at home to Cardiff City on Saturday.
Coventry: Marshall, Duffy, Page, Hall, Clarke, Birchall (Andrews 74), Hutchison (Cameron 14), Doyle, Tabb, Adebola (Kyle 74), McKenzie. Subs Not Used: Gonzlalez-Robles, Bischoff.
Sheff Wed: Crossley, Simek (Coughlan 56), Bullen, Bougherra, Hills, Small, Lunt, Folly, Brunt, Tudgay (MacLean 82), Burton (O’Brien 46). Subs Not Used: Adamson, Spurr.
Brian Laws told BBC Sport:
‘The two incidents turned the game. We will certainly be asking the referee to reflect on his decisions and we could well appeal on Monday.
‘The most constructive thing is that I have learned my players, when facing defeat, will just not lie down. Their keeper made three world-class saves in the last 15 minutes.’
Micky Adams told BBC Sport:
‘We have been going through a tricky spell recently but that has happened to me before both as a player and manager at this football club.
‘You have to get through it, though you could say we were given a helping hand as it was not a wonderful performance.
‘But from my point of view, a win is a win and the important thing is that we push on from this and build.’