The Owls four game unbeaten run came to an abrupt end as a battling Crewe side won this relegation six pointer with relative ease.
The victory means the Railwaymen have cut the gap between themselves and the Owls to just five points with four games remaining. Two first half strikes from on-loan Nottingham Forest striker Gareth Taylor were enough to condemn the Owls to a deserved 2-0 defeat.
The most surprising change of the afternoon came with the announcement that Jon-Paul Mcgovern was to make his first start of 2006 on the right-wing. The Scot had only played nine minutes of first team football in last weekends 0-0 draw with Burnley, but was put straight into the line up for this crunch class. Chris Brunt was the unfortunate one to miss out and be relegated to the bench.
On-loan defender Mikkel Bischoff was missing through injury, and Paul Sturrock decided to put Patrick Collins in the centre of defence alongside Graham Coughlan. It seemed Sturrock opted for pace rather than experience, with Lee Bullen sitting on the bench.
Crewe boss Dario Gradi had no fresh injury worries and was able to select the same starting eleven for the seventh successive time. Gradi didn’t seem to be in the habit of changing a side that has picked up two wins in their last three games – including a 4-1 thrashing of Coventry and an impressive 2-1 away at QPR.
The only injury concern came from the subs bench, with Michael Higdon out with an ankle injury. Michael O’Connor replaced him on the bench.
We had to tackle terrible sleet and shower on the way over to Cheshire, and when we got their the weather was no better. It certainly wasn’t going to make for a flowing game of football, and set the scene for what seemed likely to be a scrappy affair.
As predicted, it was a scrappy opening but the Owls seemed in control of proceedings and produced the first half chance of the game when Jon-Paul McGovern pulled back a cross for Glenn Whelen to latch on to it but his effort from the egde of the box went high and wide into the Crewe fans behind the goal.
It may have almost seemed like a home game for the Owls, with two stands full of 2,200 travelling Wednesday fans. The travelling Barmy Army knew the importance of the game, and were making themselves heard in the early stages.
Minutes later Marcus Tudgay headed on to give strike partner Deon Burton a sniff at goal, but his effort didn’t trouble Turnbull in the Alex goal and went into the side netting.
On-loan goalkeeper Scott Carson had to come to the Owls rescue on a few occassions when Steve Jones and Luke Rodgers were put through on the Owls goal. Sturrock knew the threat the strikers posed to the Owls defence, and Carson was positioned well to clear the danger on both occassions.
Just after 20 minutes Carson was in action again, but this time producing a magnificent save to keep the scores at 0-0. A free-kick from Kenny Lunt wide on the left found Steve Jones in the Wednesday box, and his sweet volley looked to be heading for the back of the net until Carson managed to tip it round the post.
The hosts weren’t having it their own though, and Burton O’Brien had a good effort saved well by Turnbull. JP Mcgovern’s cross by-passed everyone in the Alex area, and O’Brien’s shto at the far post was saved comfortably.
The breakthrough came just after the half hour mark. Billy Jones ran at the Owls defence, and defender Frankie Simek slipped in the wet conditions. Jones produced a great cross for on-loan hitman Gareth Taylor to make it 1-0 to Alex.
Things could have taken a turn for the worst just minutes later, when Patrick Collins was lucky to received just a yellow card for his last-ditch foul on Crewe striker Luke Rodgers. The Crewe faithful were wanting to see Collins recieve a red, but lukily for the Owls only a yellow was drawn from the refree’s pocket.
There was time for Crewe to double their lead before the break, and they did it in very dubious circumstances. As the Owls controlled possession in the middle of the park, Burton O’Brien was savagely fouled from behind, but the referee waved advantage, only to see the ball to fall to a the feet of a Crewe player. As cries from the Owls bench fell on deaf ears, Alex broke away through Lunt who provided another fine cross for Taylor to make it 2-0 in first half stoppage time.
A chorus of booing erupted from the Wednesday fans, but the hosts had gone in deservedly leading. The problems were not only on the pitch for the Owls, with some Wednesday fans venting their anger on each other at the interval, and thus not seeing the second half.
Wednesday fans knew that a draw or a victory would surely see the Railwaymen relegated to League One, and would give the Owls almost certain Championship football next season. A second half on slaught never materialised though, and it seemed like it would be the hosts who would add to their lead rather than Wednesday cut it to 2-1.
Steve Jones linked up well with Luke Rodgers in attack, and a neat one-two between the pair saw Jones break free on goal, but his effort was dragged well wide on goal when it should have made the game secure.
Jones had another opportunity moments later when his dangerous run down the left hand side trouble the Owls defence but his effort was sent low and hard passed Scott Carson’s far post.
Wednesday had to force some pressure on Crewe at some point, and it seemed to come when Sturrock introduced Chris Brunt and Lee Bullen to replace Glenn Whelen and Jon-Paul McGovern respectfully. Whelen had another torrid time in the centre of midfield with passes going astray, and McGovern certainly didn’t look back to his best.
The Owls were pushing forward, and maybe should have had a penalty when Deon Burton was brought down by Bougherra in the box. The referee waved away the protests though to the dismay of the Wednesday faithful.
Wednesday continued desperately in search of that vital goal, and Lee Bullen almost made it 2-1 had it not been for the superb save from Turnbull in the Alex goal. The shot seemed to come from nothing has was curling towards the top left-hand corner of the Alex stoppers goal before tipping it over the bar for a corner.
The Owls were being forced to have long range efforts, the best coming from Chris Brunt and Leon Best – but neithe really troubled the ‘keeper.
With time running out, and most Wednesday fans heading for the exits, Deon Burton was put through on goal for the best chance of the match. Turnbull was in fine form though, and came running from his goal to block the former Derby striker’s effort.
It was typical that Wednesday saved probably their worst performances of the season for a match which could have seen them all but secure Championship football for next season. The scoreline could have been much greater had it not been for Scott Carson in the Wednesday goal and some woeful Crewe finishing.
Thankfully, relegation rivals Millwall and Brighton both lost, so the gap is still at five points with just four games to go. Crewe may be our nearest rivals, but their run in certainly doesn’t favour them with both Leeds United and Crystal Palace still to play.
Couldn’t do anything about the goals, and stopped the scoreline being even bigger.
Looks to be tiring towards the end of the season but was on hand to cope well with Rodgers on a number of occassions.
Was probably the best of a bad bunch. Linked up well with O’Brien, and then Brunt in attack.
Shame everyone didn’t share the same determination and maybe the scoreline would have been different.
Struggled with the aeriel presence of Rodgers and Jones, even though he’s taller than both. Made a couple of important challenges early in the match but won’t have worried Bischoff and Wood over their place in the first team.
One of the poorest performances I’ve seen from a Wednesday player. His passes were all over the place and he did little to help defend. Extremely low on confidence.
Played better when the team changed to the new formation in the second half, but it was too little too late.
Could tell he was thrown bakc into the fray a little early. Showed a few signs of what he’s capable of in the first half.
Has improved vastly in recent weeks and is linking well with Hills down the left-hand side. Also had a good effort well saved by Turnbull.
Not one of his better games. Showed some promis in the first half, but missed a sitter in the second which could have breathed some life into the team.
Gave it a good go and a saw a decent header drift just wide of goal in the second half. Made a few promising runs at the Alex defence.
Played on the right wing and didn’t have much of an effect, although he had a brilliant shot saved superbly by Turnbull which could have changed the game.
Could tell why he was dropped in the first place. No pride, or passion for the cause.
Did he best but it was too little too late.
Paul Sturrock told BBC Sport:
‘I’d like to think some of the players would look in the mirror and think of their attitude.
‘You cannot defend the way we did today and we were chalk and cheese compared to the team that won at Wolves.
‘After this, we’ve got to get back to the drawing board when we play Norwich and Brighton.’
Dario Gradi told BBC Sport:
‘Of course we can do it, and more importantly, the players have begun to think we can do it.
‘We could have been three up early on and I enjoyed both of our goals.
‘But we made hard work of it in the second half, it wouldn’t be Crewe if we didn’t do that, but we defended with great resolution.’