Paul Sturrock’s second anniversary in charge of the Owls ended in an extremely disappointing home defeat against 10-man Derby County to leave Owls fans wondering what next for the Hillsborough club.
Wednesday had taken the lead after the hour mark when Chris Brunt managed to squeeze the ball home from six yards out, and when Derby had Giles Barnes sent off with 20 minutes to go it looked as though Wednesday were going to pick up their first home victory of the season.
But a dramatic collapse by the Owls in the final minutes left the home fans wondering what next for Paul Sturrock and his men. Sub Paul Peschisolido will have enjoyed netting the equaliser against his former rivals, and as the Owls surged forward in front of the winning goal the Rams broke away at the other end and secured a priceless three points thanks to a fine strike from former Owls target Steve Howard.
Sturrock was forced to change Brad Jones after the on-loan Middlesbrough stopper failed a late fitness test. Chris Adamson came in to replace him. Lloyd Sam was also unfit after picking up a knock in the Owls defeat at Hull last week, Kenny Lunt came in to take his place in midfield with Chris Brunt also returning in place of Steve Adams.
The Owls knew the importance of this game having only picked up two points and two goals on home soil this season. And they got off to a decent start by having most of the play and creating some early chances against a lacklustre Derby side.
But the efforts came from full-back Frank Simek who saw a decent long-range effort fly over the Rams bar and a tame effort from Burton O’Brien. Lee Grant also saw a Marcus Tudgay effort fly across the face of his goal.
At the other end Steve Howard alsmost put Derby ahead after the ball bounced around the Wednesday box and somehow ended up in the arms of Chris Adamson. And the Rams had the best chance of the half when tricky winger Ryan Smith got the better of Tommy Spurr to cut back for Matt Oakley, but the former Southampton midfielder fired over the bar from close-range.
After a scrappy start to the second half, Deon Burton saw a fine left-footed volley force a good save from Grant in the Derby goal. And the noise lifted around Hillsborough with the introduction of Steve Maclean in place of Deon Burton.
And the change had an almost instant impact for Wednesday when a long throw from Tommy Spurr found its way to Chris Brunt inside the Derby box and the Northern Ireland international turned and shot low to give the Owls the lead and their first goal from open play at Hillsborough this season.
But despite the cries of the Wednesday fans to get forward and kill the game off with a second goal, the Owls sat back looking to defender their slender 1-0 advantage.
Derby’s task was made even harder with 20 minutes to go when Giles Barnes was sent off for the visitors after a late lunge on Owls captain Graham Coughlan.
But you know what they say about ten men, and the ten man for Derby worked even harder denying the Owls any space. And their equaliser came when substitute Paul Peschisolido somehow bundled the ball in to the back of the Owls goal after a scramble in the Wednesday box.
Paul Sturrock introduced Drew Talbot and Barry Corr late on in attempt to grab the winner for the Owls. Talbot had a chance for the hosts but he blazed his effort well over Lee Grant’s goal to the relief of the Derby defence.
And the afternoon was made worse when four minutes in to injury time former Luton Town hitman Steve Howard picked up the ball at the edge of the Wednesday box before drilling his low shot by Chris Adamson to send the travelling Derby fans wild behind the goal.
The result sees Wednesday slip in to the bottom three of the Championship with just one win from their first nine games – a stark contrast to one game lost in the final nine of last season. Looks like we’re in for another long, hard season…
Paul Sturrock told BBC Sport:
‘I am absolutely gut-wrenched for the fans. They’ll be as sick as parrots. There’s no excuse for the shambolic defending in the last 10 minutes.
‘We had four different opportunities to clear the first goal. The second was just unbelievable.
‘After going a goal up and having Derby down to 10 men, we went 10 yards back.’
Billy Davies told BBC Sport:
‘It shows you the character that we have got and it is developing slowly. They are understanding the message, but we have a long way to go.
‘We know what we’re trying to do and where we are going.’