Will Keane ended his lengthy search for his first career goal, but it was not enough to cure Sheffield Wednesday’s embarrassing home form.
The Owls have scored just eight times at Hillsborough this season in 15 Championship outings, a statistic which is even more damning when the last three goals have come from the penalty spot.
Apart from a couple of long-range efforts from Chris Maguire, the Owls never looked like scoring in the opening 45 minutes, which had been preceded by an emotional on-pitch farewell from outgoing chairman Milan Mandaric.
Trailing to a deft header from Kenwyne Jones – a former Owls loan striker – on just seven minutes, Wednesday were toothless.
It took the half-time introduction of midfield grafter Jose Semedo to help turn things around.
Stevie May burst clear, but hit a post with goalkeeper Simon Moore beaten, Keane was denied by a superb block from Aron Gunnarsson, and Sam Hutchinson blazed over the crossbar from eight yards out.
Deadline-day signing Sergiu Bus – on the pitch for just 10 minutes as a second-half substitute – finally unlocked the Cardiff rearguard.
His pace and tenacity caused panic in the visitors’ area, Matthew Connolly pushed the Romanian signing from Bulgarian side CSKA Sofia and gifted Keane the chance to break his duck.
The on-loan Manchester United striker – who, at 22, had never scored a league goal in a career which includes loan spells at Wigan and QPR – showed a cool head to send Moore the wrong way from the spot.
“For any striker, it’s always a relief to get your first goal, to get you under way,” said Keane.
“It settles you down a bit. I felt over the last few games I have played quite well without too much of a goal threat.
“I am sure that will give me more confidence to go on and keep scoring.
“Every goal counts and, as soon as we got a penalty, I was confident enough to take it. I was just glad to see it hit the back of the net.
“At times, on that pitch, there are limited opportunities to get good chances in front of goal. We had a few where we came close.
“It was a tough game and I thought in the first half they probably edged it. It was disappointing from our point of view in conceding the early goal.
“Last week we conceded a few sloppy goals, so we made a point about that this week, so to concede early on was frustrating.
“But then I thought we got straight in their faces in the second half and had a few chances early on.
“The crowd got right behind us and we dominated the half. On another day, we might have got a winner, we were unlucky.”
In the last 15 minutes, Wednesday pushed for a winner, which their second-half efforts deserved.
All three substitutes made an impact, Lewis McGugan following Semedo and Bus into the action.
The on-loan Watford midfielder drilled a fierce shot which Moore did well to tip away, Semedo saw his effort deflected over, and Claude Dielna – standing in for suspended captain Glenn Loosens – went close with a header.
Maguire, who was substituted at half-time over fears he might go on to pick up a second booking after the break, will serve a two-match ban after collecting 10 yellow cards this season. He will miss tomorrow’s trip to Ipswich, plus the visit of Brighton to Hillsborough on Saturday.
The poor Hillsborough pitch is clearly not conducive to flowing football with a heavy winter having taken its toil.
And Keane believes Wednesday may have to adapt their style to combat the pitch until the end of the campaign.
“We tried to come out of the traps, but sometimes you just have to adapt to the pitch,” said Keane. “We were trying to over-play it. We are disappointed not to get the three points at home, but the spirit we showed to come back, hopefully on Tuesday (away at Ipswich Town) we can get a win and push on from there.”
Keane’s twin brother Michael is now at Burnley, but the defender already has five goals to his name after spells at Leicester City, Derby County and Blackburn Rovers. He even netted at Hillsborough last season in a 3-3 draw with Rovers.
Will, whose display was recorded by a video team from Old Trafford, is adamant he will soon catch his sibling in the goals column.
“Mike scored here last season, so I am glad I finally got on the scoresheet,” said the striker. “Don’t worry, I will catch him.
“Growing up, I was the goal-scorer, he assisted me. He was a midfielder then, but gradually moved back.”
Keane is hoping to kick-start his career, not helped by injuries, at Hillsborough and is open-minded about his future.
“United just want me to come here, get experience and games,” he said. “They feel that’s valuable for me, at this point, and I feel the same. I want a good run of games, to prove myself, and get recognised that way. I just want to come here, do as well as possible, and see where that leaves me at the end of the season.”