The word ‘robbed’ gets used all too often in football – but ten-man Wednesday were well and truly robbed of all three points against promotion chasing Wolves at Hillsborough.
Former Scunthorpe striker Andy Keogh had vowed to get one over on his former gaffer prior to the match, and although it was only a point gained for Mick McCarthy’s men – it was a point they never deserved.
The talking point of the match came with five minutes to spare as Frank Simek’s challenge on Michael McIndoe saw uproar from the Wolves bench, which culminated in manager Mick McArthy’s reaction getting the USA international sent-off for a challenge which should have seen no more than a yellow card.
With ten-men for the last five minutes – plus four minutes stoppage time – the Owls had to defend in numbers and the equalising goal came down the Owls right-hand side, incidentally where Simek should have been patrolling, as Keogh got the better of Lee Bullen before stroking in to the back of the net with a neat finish.
It wasn’t what Wednesday deserved – after ninety minutes of playing the better football and creating the more clear-cut chances. A neutral at the game would surely have pointed towards the team in blue and white as the team gunning for promotion.
With a five-game unbeaten run going in to the match, the Owls boss made just one change to the side that beat Colchester in midweek with Steve Watson returning from injury to replace Kenny Lunt in the centre of midfield.
And if anyone was of the opinion that the team weren’t bothered about the remainder of the season, today’s match proved them wrong from the word go as both sides’ attacking abilities made for an entertaining clash in front of the 24,000-plus crowd inside Hillsborough.
Some neat play down the left-hand side gave Glenn Whelan the first half-chance of the match as he blasted a long-range effort just wide of Murray’s goal, before Peter Gilbert broke free, again down the left, to provide a lofting ball for Marcus Tudgay – but the former Derby man scuffed his shot harmlessly wide when he should have done better from close range.
But Wednesday’s creativity in front of goal came up trumps in their next move as a long throw-in from Frank Simek was flicked in to the box by Lee Bullen, to allow Deon Burton to expertly flick home from close range to give the Owls a 22nd minute advantage.
The goal lifted Wednesday, and they heaped more pressure on Murray’s goal before a foul on the right-hand side gave Chris Brunt the chance to whip in a trademark cross – but his cross-come shot almost fooled the Wolves stopper as it cannoned off the bar and out for a goalkick to the relief of the Wolves defence.
The Molinuex club had been on a superb run in recent weeks which had lifted them to the lofty position of 4th in the league, and their set-back against Coventry in midweek didn’t seem to affect them as they looked similarly dangerous in their rare attacks.
But the visitors could have found themselves back on level terms in the most unfortunate of circumstances for Wednesday as confusion in the Owls defence almost saw Richard Wood head over the on-coming Turner in to his own net, only to see the Scot expertly claim the ball and save the Wakefield defender’s bacon.
But Wolves created a chance of their own minutes later as Andy Keogh beat Iain Turner as he came rushing out of his goal, and stabbed the ball by the Owls stopper but Wood rushed back and cleared the ball off the line at the last minute – a clearance that brought applause similar to that of the Owls opener.
But the effort lifted the visitors and they wasted no time in levelling matters as a series of crosses in to the Owls box resulted in Michael McIndoe rising highest to head home from close range on 35 minutes.
Both sides had their fair share of chances going in to the break, but neither looked like they were going to go in ahead as both defences held firm.
Half-Time: Wednesday 1-1 Wolves
Wednesday made a similarly frantic start to the second half as they did to the first, and were rewarded just two minutes in to the second 45 as Deon Burton put Steve Maclean through on goal and his sublime finish got the better of Jan Budtz – who came on at the break to replace the injured Murray – to give the Owls the advantage.
The Owls had the upper hand and were playing the more attractive football after the goal, and they could, and probably should, have made the game safe as some brilliant play between Burton and Tudgay saw the latter steam through the Wolves defence before putting in Brunt on the right, but his powerful low shot was well saved by the legs of Budtz.
And while many in the ground expected a Wolves on-slought as they looked to cement their spot in the Championship play-off places, it was Wednesday who continued to dominate proceedings and contain the Wolves attacking line.
Peter Gilbert again impressed in just his second match for the Owls since an injury picked up in the fixture at Molinuex last season – but tiredness got the better of him in the second half as Tommy Spurr got a run out.
Wednesday continued to create in front of goal and Steve Maclean came close to extending their lead from a superb Chris Brunt cross – but the Scot was adjudged to be offside by the linesman.
And Brunt produced a moment of magic just minutes later after Glenn Whelan had seen his free-kick blocked by the Wolves wall.
The Northern Irish international picked up the rebound and waltzed by three Wolves defenders in the box before unleashing a powerful effort on goal, only to see it deflected over for what seemed to be a corner. But in continuation of his poor decisions for both teams all afternoon, the referee somehow pointed for a goal kick.
And Wednesday looked to be homing in on their second home win on the spin, the turning point came with five minutes remaining.
Frank Simek was shown a straight red card for a challenge on former Barnsley and Doncaster Rovers midfielder Michael McIndoe which infuriated the Wolves bench.
The challenge looked a lot worse than it was – with the American even getting a touch on to the ball – and a yellow card was probably expected from the referee, but the antics of Mick McArthy on the sidelines seemed to prompt him to send the Owls right-back off the field – with the Hillsborough faithful reacting with a chorus of booing.
The former Republic of Ireland manager went steaming towards Simek after the challenge, forcing fellow Wolves coaches to restrain him while Owls boss Brian Laws took to the pitch to try and calm matters down.
Nevertheless, Wednesday were down to ten-men and were being forced to defend in numbers as Wolves piled on the pressure against the ten-men late-on.
And the leveller came after four minutes of injury time were shown by the fourth official, as Keogh broke down the Wolves left – ironically where Simek would have been positioned – and got the better of Bullen before producing a neat finish by Turner in to the bottom corner.
It was two points dropped from the Owls’ point of view, but it takes their unbeaten run to six matches, and had plenty of signs of a team going firmly in the right direction under the guidence of Laws.
Full-Time: Wednesday 2-2 Wolves
Wednesday: Turner, Bullen, Gilbert (Spurr 74), Wood, Simek, Whelan, Tudgay, Brunt, Watson, MacLean (Lunt 82), Burton. Subs Not Used: Adamson, Folly, Lekaj.
Wolves: Murray (Budtz 46), Neill Collins, Breen, Clapham, Edwards (Craddock 71), Olofinjana, Potter, McIndoe, Kightly, Ward (Bothroyd 72), Keogh. Subs Not Used: Mark Davies, Craig Davies.
Brian Laws told the official SWFC site:
‘One thing is very, very clear and that is if anyone thought the players would switch off and let the season peter out, without motivation to carry on then that match tells you a different story.
‘I thought we did exceptionally well, I thought overall we were the better side; passed the ball well, moved, created chances and deservedly went into the lead.’
‘I can see that they have a lot of energy in the side and we generally dealt well with Wolves’ counter attacking style.’
Mick McArthy told the official WWFC site:
‘Even if he did nick the ball – and I don’t think he did – it was still a sending off offence in my opinion.
‘People will say I was a physical player but I never did that.
‘I like Frank – he is a competitive player, but he deserved his punishment. It’s unacceptable and there is no place in the game for that.
‘McIndoe wasn’t fully functional after that. His leg is in a bad way.
‘I reacted to it but I can guarantee you that if it had been the other way around then Brian Laws would have done the same.’