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One consolation for Sheffield Wednesday fans in this season of perpetual misery has been the mouth-watering prospect of Steel City derbies returning next year.
But could Wednesday, like their cross-city rivals United, also be facing the ignominy of relegation?
This defeat to Notts County extended their barren home run in League One to over three months and left the Owls dangling precariously just seven points above the drop zone.
What’s more, the bad news is that seven of their remaining 12 fixtures are at Hillsborough. Instant improvement on home turf is essential if less attractive local affairs against Rotherham United, Bradford City and Burton Albion are to be avoided.
Manager Gary Megson had justifiable cause to question the award of County’s 27th minute penalty, converted by Alan Gow, but he couldn’t hide his displeasure at his underperforming players.
“It was a coming together and the referee has given a penalty but if that is a penalty, there could have been three penalties in the game,” he said.
“We haven’t done enough to trouble their goalkeeper. It was an insipid performance. We played 4-4-2 but still didn’t create the chances. It’s about the players, not the formations.”
The truth is Wednesday lack guts when they get into advanced positions. Time and time again on Saturday they found space on the wings, but instead of crossing into the penalty area chose to retreat.
The wing-back support from Tommy Spurr and Michael Morrison was good but Wednesday more often than not failed to push on, opting to pass sideways or backwards. The result was a measly one shot on target in the entire match.
County’s physical approach to defending led to a series of penalty appeals early on, but official Mark Brown was unmoved as Clinton Morrison and Neil Mellor were grappled in the box.
And these incidents made the game’s defining moment all the harder to stomach. Gow surged through on a rare County break and clashed with Mark Beevers. The coming together seemed innocent enough, but Brown pointed to the spot. Gow dusted himself down to beat Nicky Weaver.
The Nottingham side, themselves in the relegation dog-fight, were visibly lifted and would have doubled their lead but for Weaver’s excellent reflex save from Njogu Demba-Nyren on the stroke of half-time.
Megson threw on Jermaine Johnson and Daniel Jones for the second-half and Wednesday looked a little more direct and threatening. Clinton Morrison was inches away from connecting with Spurr’s deliveries on two occasions and his namesake Michael nearly scored from a Gary Teale corner.
County continued to look dangerous on the counter-attack and livewire Demba-Nyren tested Weaver again, before Ivan Sproule sent an effort narrowly wide.
Jones, Clinton Morrison and Tommy Miller all wasted half-chances in the final ten minutes as Wednesday searched in vain for an equaliser.
Next Match: Solihull Moors vs. Boston United on Saturday