City find themselves in a similar situation to the one that the Owls were in not long back. Granted, their situation is not quite as perilous, but after the decision to move on from Wednesday great, Nigel Pearson, they had an interim man at the helm in Curtis Fleming and for their opponents were a bit of an unknown quantity.
Wednesday would probably have been unchanged if not for a slight problem with Josh Windass, who was replaced by young Djeidi Gassama in the starting XI, and in the early stages you could see the same sort of patterns that had been so successful for them against Rotherham United.
A couple of sighters from the hosts saw Tommy Conway fire wide and Jason Knight hit an effort straight into the arms of Cameron Dawson, but it was the Owls who were playing the more enterprising football. With slick interplay they picked some holes in the Robins’ backline, and one such move resulted in Anthony Musaba heading just over the bar after a link-up with Reece James.
But just as Wednesday were finding their stride, with Gassama looking bright and both George Byers and Barry Bannan getting things ticking in the middle, the Owls were dealt a hammer blow. In line with Röhl’s style Dawson passed it out from the back, aiming for the skipper, but whether down to bad communication or short distribution it was intercepted by Knight in a very dangerous position.
Bannan, desperately scrambling to get back, clipped his heels and down he went. Home fans called for penalty but a freekick was the right call, the foul happening just on the edge of the 18-yard box. But the incident wasn’t over, and as players surrounded the referee he dug into his pocket.
There was cover, both Di’Shon Bernard and Dawson stood between Knight and the net, but Lewis Smith and his assistant decided that that wasn’t enough. They saw it as an obvious goal-scoring opportunity, so a straight red was the decision – off walked the Owls captain after handing Byers the armband, and the Owls would finish the remaining hour with 10 men.
Wednesday saw out the rest of the half well, even fashioning a couple of half chances, and with the travelling fans in good voice once again they went into the break far from dejected.
Changes came in the form of Will Vaulks and Pol Valentin, who replaced Djeidi Gassama and Michael Smith – Paterson going up top and Valentin slotting into the gap he left behind.
They may have had less men, but still the Owls pushed on. Dominic Iorfa saw his powerful header well saved from a corner, and Musaba’s tricky feet saw him find space to cross for ‘Pato’ but he couldn’t get enough on it to divert it goalwards.
As time went on, probably understandably in the circumstances, Fleming’s side started to take control. And with 64 minutes gone their pressure paid off – even if it did require a large slice of luck.
Conway found space on the right side of the Wednesday box, and as Vaulks’ stuck out a foot to block his cross he inadvertently turned it into the path of Rob Dickie – who prodded home from close range to give them the lead. It felt cruel on the Owls, who had looked so solid for such large periods of the tie.
Even at a goal down, though possession wasn’t in their favour, Wednesday tried to push on. Ashley Fletcher, Akin Famewo and the returning Marvin Johnson were all thrown into the mix, and for a while it looked like Röhl’s side might get something out of it after all.
Fletcher was unlucky to see his close-range effort brilliantly saved by Max O’Leary after a wicked ball in from Vaulks, and on another day a couple of the scrambles in the box could’ve fallen Wednesday’s way. But it wasn’t to be, and it’s another defeat for the Owls - but once more the green shoots of progress are clear for all to see. This isn’t the same Wednesday from earlier in the season.