Wednesday’s number will be in the hat for the FA Cup Fourth Round draw tomorrow after Steve Maclean’s top-class finish just a minute after Georgios Samaras’s spot-kick gave the Owls a share of the spoils in an entertaining cup-clash at Hillsborough on Sunday afternoon.
Wednesday were in confident mood going in to the tie after a fine run of form over the festive period saw Brian Laws’ men just three points off the play-off spots. But City were also firing on all cyclinders following three successive wins – which were kick-started in the Steel City against Sheffield United in December.
Laws made two changes to the side that slumped to a 2-1 defeat against lowly Hull City on New Year’s Day with Graham Coughlan coming in to replace the suspended Madjid Bougherra at the back while Marcus udgay reverted to the right wing after the departure of Wayne Andrews to allow Steve Maclean and Deon Burton to partner in attack.
And the Owls, spurred on by the majority of the bumper 28,000 crowd who braved the weather at Hillsborough, made a lightning start as they took the game to their Premiership opponents and looked the brighter of the two sides in the earlier exchanges.
Tommy Spurr capitalised on some sloppy City defending to win the ball in a dangerous position at the edge of Nicky Weaver’s area but if the Owls fans wanted anyone to pick the ball up there it wasn’t Tommy Spurr, and the left-back let a left-footed drive go high and wide in to the 6,000 travelling City fans behind the goal.
And minutes later it was the in-form Chris Brunt who sent a shot in to the City fans after again picking the ball up on the left before getting in to a good position but wasting the opportunity by slipping and slicing his effort wide.
It was a day City stopper, and Wednesday fan, Nicky Weaver revealed he was looking forward to since the draw, and he had to be in top form for Stuart Pearce’s men all afternoon. Kenny Lunt was the first Owls player to test him with a long-range effort which was relatively comfortable to collect.
Wednesday were playing to their potential and were giving nothing away to a seemingly lacklustre City side, who were obviously missing the creative spark of Joey Barton in the middle of the park through suspension.
And their frustrations almost spilled over as Micah Richards could consider himself fortunate to remain on the pitch following what could only be described as a ‘choke slam’ on Owls midfielder Glenn Whelan.
The former City youngster was working tirelessly in the Owls midfield and won the ball back from Richards in the midfield before both players squared up and the England international grabbed Whelan by the neck and threw him to the ground right in front of referee Graham Poll.
But to most Owls fans’ disappointment, Mr Poll only showed Richards a yellow card – oh well, only two more to go before he could be sent off, eh?
With Madjid Bougherra suspended at the back, Owls fans cold have been forgiven for fearing the attacking pace of Beasley, Samaras and Vassell – but the Owls defence coped with everything City had to throw at them and worked the offside trap well, denying City, and in particular Vassell, on a number of occassions.
City did have the ball in the back of the net in the first half from a corner-kick but Mr Poll adjudged the City attacker to have fouled Crossley as he leapt to catch the ball and clear the danger.
Further chances came and went for Wednesday as Kenny Lunt saw another long-range drive fly wide of the goal before Sylvain Distin was on-hand to clear the danger after a dangerous cross by Brunt.
Half-Time: Wednesday 0-0 City
The Owls looked eager to get in to City at the start of the second-half as they came back on to the slippery Hillsborough playing surface early to warm-up.
And their fine first-half performance continued in the second 45 straight from the restart as Deon Burton collected the ball and drove at the City defence.
If any neutral fan was inside Hillsborough they would have struggled to tell who was the Premiership team and who wasn’t, but they could have been forgiven for thinking it was City who were in the Championship after an error from Distin almost saw an own-goal on the cards, only for Weaver to acrobatically tip the ball over the bar for an Owls corner.
And from the resulting Chris Brunt corner Lee Bullen saw his header cleared off the line by Samaras before being cleared to safety as the Owls continued to push forward for the opening goal.
But minutes later City reminded everyone who was the Premiership club as they launched a counter-attack and allowed Darius Vassell through on goal, only for the former Villa man to blast his effort straight at the on-coming Crossley who cleared the danger.
But Brunt was still the most dangerous player on the pitch in attack and his dangerous in-swinging corners were causing chaos in the City defence – with Nicky Weaver coming to their rescue on a number of occasions by fisting the ball to safety.
And Brunt could, and maybe should, have give the Owls the lead minutes later as he capitalised on some slack City defending to find himself unmarked at the back post before lashing a poor shot in to the side netting.
City were still creating chances at the other end, no matter how few and far between, as Distin lashed his close-range effort over the bar from a dangerous City corner-kick before Samaras saw his turn and shot well saved by Crossley.
The end-to-end action continue minutes later as Brunt again threatened the City goal with a long-range effort which was confidently turned over the bar by Weaver.
But despite Wednesday’s domination it was City who took the lead with just 12 minutes remaining after the highly-rated Richards burst in to the Owls box and was brought down by a Kenny Lunt challenge, allowing Georgios Samaras to step up and give City the lead.
But Wednesday were far from out of the contest and the City fans were still celebrating their goal at the other end when Wednesday attacked the City goal and Steve Maclean ran at the City defence before unleashing an unstoppable low drive from the edge of the box by the outstretched Weaver to level matters in a matter of seconds.
The events had given the game the atmosphere of a real cup-tie with both goals being attacked to avoid a replay at Eastlands.
And both sides had chances to progress to the next round as Wade Small came off the bench to run by two City defenders and slice his shot wide, while Richard Dunne saw a header well saved by Crossley from a late City corner.
Despite shading the game, the Owls will be fairly happy to be taking City back to Eastlands after Samaras’ opener, but the tie is likely to be a more daunting one for Brian Laws’ men – especially with the return of key-man oey Barton to the City ranks.
Full-Time: Wednesday 1-1 City
Wednesday: Crossley, Bullen, Coughlan, Simek, Spurr, Brunt, Whelan, Lunt, Tudgay (Small 76), MacLean, Burton. Subs Not Used: Adamson, O’Brien, Folly, Beevers.
City: Weaver, Trabelsi (Sinclair 45), Onuoha, Dunne, Distin, Jordan, Richards, Dabo (Dickov 87), Beasley (Miller 80), Samaras, Vassell. Subs Not Used: Isaksson, Corradi.
Brian Laws told BBC Sport:
‘It would have been a travesty if we hadn’t because I thought we edged it over the 90 minutes.
‘We gave them too much respect in the first half and we needed to take the game to them but the passing in the second half was sensational at times.
‘We are playing exceptionally well away from home so we’ll go into the replay with confidence and you never know.’
Stuart Pearce told BBC Sport:
‘It was a typical Cup tie in that there was not much given by either side. We both feel as though we might have won it so a draw is fair.
‘I don’t think our work is done yet because I think it might be an even harder game at our ground.
‘Credit to them and Brian Laws. I’m pleased for him but I won’t be pleased to see him Tuesday week.’