Wednesday came from behind to avoid a potential banana skin exit from the first round of the Carling Cup with victory over local rivals Rotherham United on Thursday (yes, Thursday) night.
Had the Owls got off to a decent start at Portman Road at the weekend the clash with the Millers may have been the chance for Owls boss Brian Laws to blood some younger and fringe players, but the 4-1 hammering to Ipswich mean the Owls were desperate for victory.
But Laws was dealt a blow in the run up to kick-off with the news that Francis Jeffers would be missing with a calf strain, which allowed former Miller Deon Burton return to his former hunting ground alongside Marcus Tudgay in attack.
And Laws also left Peter Gilbert and Lee Bullen out of the team following the flack they received from the weekend defeat, giving Tommy Spurr the chance to shine at left-back while Steve Watson returned to the heart of the defence to allow Kenny Lunt a place in the Owls midfield.
Burton was handed the captain’s armband on his return to Rotherham and the plan almost worked as he saw an early effort deflected after the hitman worked his way in to the box in a fiery start.
Former Owl Graham Coughlan was at the heart of the action in his first clash against the Owls since making a summer move away from Hillsborough, producing a huge challenge on Burton before Glenn Whelan saw yellow for a late challenge on his former team mate.
Wednesday enjoyed the better clear-cut chances in the opening through Burton and Tudgay, whose shot somewhere went across the face of goal and came back off the post, with the former Derby man being clattered by Coughlan and having to eventually leave the field for Leon Clarke with a shoulder injury.
But the Millers gradually got back in to the game and looked the more likely to score with the Owls again showing their shakey defence as the men in red poured forward in search of the opener.
Former Leicester City striker Chris O’Grady fired a warning shot with the best effort of the game as his powerful effort beat Grant and came thrashing back off the woodwork in front of the Millers faithful.
And new signing Lee Grant did well to get down and push Stephen Brogan’s drive wide of his left-hand post as the hosts looked more confident going forward before Danny Harrison was left free inside the box just after the half hour mark to fire Mark Robins’ men ahead.
Grant made another superb save to deny Rotherham creeping further ahead before half-time, and instead of going in to the break 2-0 down, Wednesday continued to push for the leveller and that duly came in to first half stoppage time as Glenn Whelan fired an unstoppable low effort by Owls fans Andy Warrington to make it level at half-time.
Half-Time: Rotherham 1-1 Wednesday
The Millers shaded the first half in terms of possession and chances but the Owls looked desperate to put that right in the second half as they came out and hit the ground running as they looked to bag progression to round two.
Jet-heeled winger Jermaine Johnson was the architect for the Owls’ second, as he cut inside his men and launched a powerful drive which Warrington could only palm to the feet of Burton who powered home the second in front of his former fans and to the delight of the travelling Wednesdayites.
JJ and Small had shown Owls fans that there is life after Brunt, causing problems for the Rotherham defence throughout.
And the growing confidence in the Owls team came through with a somewhat fortunate third, as Wade Small’s attempted cross looped its way in to the back of the net to make it 3-1 and the game all but safe on the hour mark.
Warrington had to be on form to stop a more embarassing, and probably unfair, scoreline on the hosts as Johnson again saw another effort saved before Deon Burton saw an attempted second of the night superbly tipped over.
Small had claims for a penalty as his darting run on the edg of the box saw two Millers players hack him down but to his amazement the referee waved play on as Wednesday looked to kill the game off and book their place in the next round.
Richard Wood almost made a mistake to let Marc Newsham in after he slipped but Grant made another fine save to show Owls fans what he’s capable of after last week’s errors, while at the other end Steve Watson came close with a header and Leon Clarke saw a last-minute effort well saved.
The Owls will find it much harder against promotion-hopefuls Wolves at the weekend (Sunday, kick-off 1.30pm) but will have enjoyed a surge in confidence following last week’s collapse.
Wednesday: Grant; Simek, Watson, Wood, Spurr; Johnson, Whelan, Lunt, Small; Burton, Tudgay (Clarke 43). Subs not used: Burch, Bullen, Hinds, Gilbert.
Rotherham: Warrington, Tonge, O’Grady, Coughlan, Peter Holmes, Harrison, Derek Holmes (Newsham 74), Brogan (Joseph 48), Sharps, Todd (Duncum 58), Hurst.Subs not used: Cann, Bean.
Brian Laws told the official SWFC site:
‘I have been in that situation before as a manager playing against a higher level team and you try to get an early goal, try to upset the opposition and maybe you can get a win through it and of course it was going according to plan for Rotherham. I thought they were excellent in the first half and I am not going to take anything away from them. They had the edge in the first 20 minutes and then we started to move the ball a bit better.’
Mark Robins told Sky Sport:
‘I think overall there’s some pleasing thing to take out of the game obviously the result wasn’t what we were looking for but I think we gave a good account of ourselves. Their goalkeeper kept them in it at times, although they created chances as well. It was a lively game.’