"Must be nice being a Donny fan: No scramble for away tickets and a sit down in the Leppings Lane sun before a short journey back up the M18 - throat in tact – with three points in the bag.
A solitary strike from Federico Macheda was enough to seal Saturday’s all-South Yorkshire encounter at Hillsborough, though that scoreline seemed unlikely for much of the game leading up to it.
At first it appeared we’d done enough; I dug out my lucky boxers, we parked in our lucky spot and consumed our lucky pre-match refreshments - courtesy of Legends and Beres respectively. But despite our best efforts, Macheda’s strike 19 minutes from time was enough to condemn The Owls to a place in the bottom three.
Wednesday were still searching for their first win going in to the game and naturally, there were moments where The Owls looked devoid of confidence but despite that, Dave Jones’ strugglers showed numerous signs of improvement.
New recruits Roger Johnson and Stephen McPhail looked much more at home in the Hillsborough sun following last weekend’s drubbing in the second city, and the former’s insistence on playing the ball to his one-time Cardiff City teammate at any available opportunity was refreshing to see.
McPhail, without a club since leaving The Bluebirds (Redbirds?) at the end of last season, was the stand-out player in a Wednesday midfield not used to seeing much – if any – of the ball in recent games, or in fact seasons.
But the first real chance was created by a more familiar outlet; Michail Antonio, back on the right following a number of games playing God knows where, saw his low cross sliced in to the path of Atdhe Nuhui by Owls’ old boy Rob Jones, but the big Austrian struggled to get his shot away and saw his eventual effort blocked by a defender.
Wednesday were looking the hungrier of the two sides and hard-working Nuhiu went close again before Jermaine Johnson wasted a promising counter-attack, opting to connect acrobatically with Antonio’s pinpoint through ball despite being free of the last defender, though he did manage to hit the target – albeit tamely – which will have surprised many of the 21,000 people inside Hillsborough.
Half-time passed largely incident free, although I almost fell down the North Stand stairs when the fella on the row behind me announced to his mate that Tony Currie was picking out the day’s 50-50 winners. It wasn’t him, obviously.
In to the second-half and it was the home side asking most of the questions. Wednesday, heeding the advice of ‘Optimistic’ Duncan (my companion for the day), were well and truly ‘believing in the slope’ as they launched a barrage against the Hillsborough Kop. Successive corners came to nothing before a deceptive drop of the shoulder by McPhail allowed him enough space down the right to pick out Miguel Llera at the far post, but Ross Turnbull got down quickly to deny the helmet-wearing defender what would’ve been a certain goal.
New signing Matty Fryatt replaced the original Johnson shortly after, and as three sides of the ground began crossing their fingers for a debut goal, Rovers substitute James Coppinger turned far too easily on to his favoured right foot and crossed for an unmarked Macheda to forcefully fire home from six-yards out.
To rub salt in the wounds, Jones confirmed to the press in midweek that the Italian had been on his list of targets – though with Wednesday’s current financial state he probably wasn’t a realistic option, or at least that’s what I’ll keep telling myself.
His 71st minute strike was the sucker punch to halt the charge and no one realistically believed we’d come away with anything after that (did they?), despite Paul Keegan clearing Nuhiu’s goal-bound header off the line as the game drew to a close.
There was still time for Chris Kirkland, a spectator for the most part, to go forward in search of a last-gasp equaliser but Rovers cleared straight to Mark Duffy, whose shot from inside the centre-circle drifted wide of an empty net.
Unfortunately for me and Duncan, we made the short journey home out of pocket, out of voice and crucially, out of points.
Ah, to be an Owl.
Man of the Match: Stephen McPhail – always an option, calm in possession.
Moan of the Match: “He’ll get you sacked, Jones” – Man to Jordan Spence, whose loan ends this week.
Muted fans of the Match: Doncaster Rovers. All of them."
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