Rochdale 0 Sheffield Wednesday 0: Spot of bother for the Owls in keeping pace with the Joneses

Stephen Darby looks to foul sub Ryan Lowe in the box late on.
Stephen Darby looks to foul sub Ryan Lowe in the box late on.
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It was a case of keeping up with the Joneses on Saturday as Sheffield Wednesday endured a frustrating time at Rochdale.

All the pre-match talk had been about new Owls manager Dave Jones, who watched the game from the Spotland directors’ box.

But at the final whistle the main talking point was another pair of Joneses, respective captains Rob and Gary.

First, Rob Jones upended Rochdale’s Jason Kennedy in the area to concede a 79th-minute penalty.

Then up stepped Gary Jones, but he smashed his spot-kick against Stephen Bywater’s right-hand post to let Wednesday off the hook.

“It was never a penalty, never been a penalty,” said Rob Jones afterwards. “I have cleaned the ball and the player out, as clean as you like.

“I think I was the most surprised person in the stadium when he gave the penalty. It was a bad decision, referees make them sometimes, but we got away with it when he hit the post.

“Maybe we should have had one late in the game when Ryan Lowe was man-handled to the ground.

“It would have been massively disappointing if they had converted that penalty, having controlled the game, and it wasn’t a penalty. So we come away with a 0-0 draw, another point and move forward.”

The two penalty incidents aside this was a game bereft of clear chances.

The Owls rarely troubled their former goalkeeper David Lucas, and the best chance of a goal always seemed likely to come from a set-piece.

With Sheffield United and Huddersfield throwing away healthy leads, a win for Wednesday would have boosted their automatic promotion hopes.

“We are disappointed overall,” said Rob Jones.

“The performance, the work-rate, the amount of chances we created. I think we had 10 corners, 15 long throws. We are disappointed with just a point today, especially when Huddersfield have drawn and Sheffield United have been beaten.

“We could have closed the gap more on Sheffield United, but it’s not to be.

“We have come away with a clean sheet, away from home, which is always a good thing and we move on to Tuesday night now against Bury.”

Caretaker manager Chris Evans was forced into one change with Reda Johnson suffering from a tight hamstring after being on international duty with Benin in midweek.

That meant a recall for Julian Bennett at left-back, while top scorer Gary Madine was picked ahead of Lowe in attack.

On-loan winger Michail Antonio again impressed, but too often the headers were off target, with Madine, Rob Jones and Danny Batth all guilty in the first half.

Chris O’Grady came closest to scoring, latching on to Bennett’s ball down the channel, but his volley went straight at Lucas.

The match was similar to the defeat at Chesterfield a fortnight ago, Wednesday failing to turn possession into goals and giving their lowly opponents renewed hope.

At the start of the second half, Dale put Wednesday under pressure, the impressive Kevin Long hammering the ball wide when well-placed, before firing over from 25 yards, and Kennedy’s long-range effort was tipped over by Bywater – the 30-year-old playing his first game at Spotland since moving from Rochdale to West Ham in 1998.

Wednesday hit Rochdale on the break following a corner, Antonio scampering away, but when he picked out the supporting Bennett, the left-back’s attempted curler was easy pickings for Lucas.

The need for a goal was obvious to Wednesday, Lowe being introduced from the bench as the visitors went 4-3-3. The former Bury striker soon had the ball in the net, but he was pulled back after the officials spotted a tug on defender Stephen Darby.

Rob Jones knows that under a new manager, no-one’s place is safe.

“We had a brief chat after training on Friday, he (Dave Jones) told us what he expects of us,” said the Owls captain.

“He has inherited a very good group of footballers, who work hard, and give everything they can for the football club. He is in a good situation, he’s inherited a good squad of players. We have to all now knuckle down together and work hard to get to where we want to be.

“We have a very good squad, four or five sat in the stands today who could quite easily come into the side and the continuity of the side doesn’t change. We have a good squad, it’s not the biggest, but it’s full of quality.

“It’s now a clean slate, a new manager comes in with new ideas, new desires and he will decide which way we go forward.

“Players that have not been playing now have the opportunity to show what they can do. It bodes well for us all, because we all need competition. No-one should be guaranteed to play, whether you are the goalkeeper, the captain or the centre forward. No-one is guaranteed to play.”

Rochdale: Lucas, Darby, Widdowson, Barry-Murphy, Kennedy, Jones, Symes, Adams (Akpa-Akpro 52), Long, Thompson (Tutte 87), Holden. Unused substitutes: Edwards, Grimes, Jordan

Sheffield Wednesday: Bywater, Buxton, R Jones, Batth, Bennett, Antonio, Semedo, Lines, Prutton (Lowe 65), Madine, O’Grady. Unused substitutes: Jameson, Llera, M Jones, Morrison.

Referee: A Bates (Staffs).