TWO WEEKS on from enjoying last-gasp derby delight, the boot was on the other foot somewhat for Sheffield Wednesday, denied maximum points by a 89th-minute leveller from Ishmael Miller as Huddersfield Town inched closer to securing Championship safety after a 1-1 draw at Hillsborough.
An eminently forgettable game burst into life in the final four minutes, in a denouement which had echoes of events at the New York Stadium a fortnight earlier, when two last-gasp goals saw the Owls turn the tables to triumph 3-2 at neighbours Rotherham United after trailing 2-1 late on - in a game which saw four goals scored in total in a madcap finale.
An 86th-minute goal from Romanian striker Sergiu Bus, with his first strike for Wednesday, looked like settling the issue when he bundled home at the second attempt after Town failed to clear Marnick Vermijl’s cross.
But Town dramatically restored parity three minutes later when fellow replacement Miller fired low past Kieren Westwood after finding space in the box after Town poured men forward in a desperate search for a leveller.
He said: “We’re disappointed that we threw two points away. I should be talking about a 1-0 win. We switched off and didn’t see the game out.
“They scored from a punt down the pitch. We didn’t deal with the long ball. We’ve defended better than that.
“We’ve had chances and didn’t get that second goal, which was the most important thing. Bus had a good chance and I thought Lavery had a good chance as well.
“We’ve tended to get our noses in front at Hillsborough and then not killed teams off.
“They obviously came with a game plan, keeping five players behind the ball and trying to hit us on the break.
“It was good for Bus to get the goal. Like any forward, he wanted to get on the scoresheet.”
Huddersfield boss Chris Powell felt a draw was a fair result.
He was also impressed by the impact of Miller and hopes the former Manchester City and West Brom forward will be able to add to his tally before the end of the campaign.
Powell, whose side are nine points above the drop zone, said: “I think it was looking like a bit of a stalemate. There were a few chances end to end and it looked like it would end 0-0.
“We needed a quick response after they scored and that’s what we got.
“I felt the result was a fair reflection on the balance of play.”
He added: “I thought Ishmael Miller worried them when he came on and you want that from your subs. He did what I wanted him to do. He makes things happen and the players and fans like him.
“That was his third goal and hopefully he can get a few more before the end of the season. Then we’ll be looking to hopefully do something further.
“I think we’ve got to aim for as many points as we can. We know there’s a bit of a buffer there but I just want us to be competitive and get results.”
A low-octane first half was shaded by Wednesday in open play, but Town created the best chance shortly before the interval when Reece James’ corner fell at the feet of David Edgar, whose goalbound shot from close range was cleared off the line by the well-stationed Vermijl.
In the main, it was a tale of Wednesday having the better of proceedings and showing the more clear intent without forcing Alex Smithies into too much action.
The Owls, boasting a strong derby record this term, made two changes from the side who claimed a dramatic last-gasp win at neighbouring Rotherham with Kamil Zayatte and Caolan Lavery coming in for Jeremy Helan and Claude Dielna, with the latter on the bench.
Town also made two changes from the 2-0 loss at Fulham before the recent international break with Reece James making his debut after joining on loan for the rest of the season from Manchester United.
James Vaughan, back from suspension, returned to spearhead the Town attack, in place of Miller, who reverted to the bench.
The opening was one that will not live too long in the memory, with one semi-threatening moment seeing Lloyd Isgrove’s left-wing cross deflected off Tommy Smith but easily gathered by Smithies.
On 13 minutes, a fine cross from Vermijl just evaded Atdhe Nuhiu and Lavery before the latter latched onto his strike partner’s header before firing a fierce shot wide from a narrow angle.
Wednesday went close four minutes before the interval with neat approach work from Kieran Lee and Lavery setting up Lewis McGugan, whose half-volley flashed inches wide.
After bringing nothing to the table going forward in the first half-hour, Town awoke from their slumber when Edgar found Joel Lynch, whose snapshot on the turn was held by the previously underemployed Westwood.
With the half petering out, Edgar was denied by a timely clearance by Vermijl as Wednesday, for the umpteenth time this season heading in at the interval with nothing to show in a 0-0 scoreline.
Despite not being on top of their game, a goalless scoreline represented a handy enough development for Town, with the onus being on Wednesday to start exerting more concerted pressure on the visitors, who headed into the game with a run of one win in their past ten games.
Six minutes in, Wednesday finally looked to have conjured the opener, with Lee’s astute pass sending Nuhiu clear of Mark Hudson and the big striker prodded the ball past the onrushing Smithies, only for Lynch to save the day with an outstanding last-ditch clearance right on the goalline.
Both Lynch and Mark Hudson remained resolute throughout for Town and protected Smithies well enough, although they survived one moment of alarm when the lively Lavery showed sublime skill to control McGugan’s lofted pass before cutting inside and firing over.
At the other end, Town struggled to manufacture opportunities, although one almost arrived shortly after Ishmael Miller entered the fray, but his cross was cleared by home skipper Tom Lees with the visitors having numbers forward following a decent break.
Bus, fit again following injury and thrown on for Nuhiu on 63 minutes, then had a half chance after a free-kick wasn’t cleared, but his low shot was comfortably held by Smithies.
Wedneaday increasingly started to look bereft of ideas, with a pot-shot from another replacement in Chris Maguire, which flew into the Kop, wildly optimistic.
Maguire then assumed responsibility after the Owls were awarded a free-kick in a dangerous position following a foul on McGugan, but the Scot’s effort, easily held by Smithies, was symptomatic of an afternoon when attacking quality was at a premium.
But the game burst into life late on, with Bus netting from close range to seemingly record just the Owls’ second home win since Boxing Day.
But the sting in the tale came from Town, courtesy of Miller’s third goal for the club with Vaughan having a half-chance to win it following Butterfield’s cross, but Westwood saved.
Sheffield Wednesday: Westwood; Vermijl, Zayatte, Lees, Zayatte, Mattock; Lee (May 63), Hutchinson, McGugan, Isgrove; Lavery (Maguire 74), Nuhiu (Bus 63). Substitutes not used: Kirkland, Buxton, Maghoma, Dielna.
Huddersfield Town: Smithies; Smith, Hudson, Lynch, James; Scannell, Coady, Edgar; Butterfield; Vaughan, Wells (Miller 63). Substitutes not used: Allinson, Wallace, Lolley, Carroll, Gobern, Majewski.
Referee: M Haywood (West Yorkshire).