Hillsborough had not seen anything like it since Sheffield Wednesday striker Paulo di Canio pushed over referee Paul Alcock.
Then the fiery Italian threw his arms out at the official in a Premier League match against Arsenal in 1998 which earned him an 11-match ban and ended his Owls career.
Fast forward 14 years to Saturday and the culprit this time was Wednesday centre-half Miguel Llera.
The 33-year-old Spaniard was infuriated that referee Andre Marriner refused to give the Owls a stoppage-time penalty after substitute Rodri saw his goal-bound effort blocked by Richard Foster’s outstretched arm.
Llera rushed up to Marriner, falling to his knees at one point, pleading for a spot-kick. The official claimed he was man-handled and awarded Bristol City a free-kick. Amid the drama, Wednesday had continued to attack with the ball bouncing around the area and Gary Madine stroking the ball home.
Afterwards, Llera disputed claims he had pushed the referee but it capped a shocking final 10 minutes for Wednesday to pile the pressure on manager Dave Jones after seven successive defeats.
If Llera did make contact, it was minimal as the referee hardly flinched – unlike Alcock 14 years previously – and it was an unusual climax to a mixed afternoon for the defender.
It was his header which had given Wednesday the lead after just two minutes, converting from Chris Lines’s corner.
The Owls should have had a further two goals inside the opening 10 minutes.
First Madine fired in a weak effort after being fed by Chris O’Grady, who missed a fine chance when he was stretching after Jermaine Johnson had left Liam Fontaine on his backside.
But Llera was at fault on 18 minutes when he brought down City’s Sam Baldock for a penalty, which the Robins striker converted.
Then came that stoppage-time rush of blood which denied Wednesday at least a share of the spoils after a second half when the Owls looked like earning just their third win in 18 Championship attempts.
Jermaine Johnson’s driving run on a swift counter-attack had ended with City goalkeeper Tom Heaton pushing the ball into the path of Madine, who put the Owls in front with 11 minutes remaining.
Yet the goal scorer turned villain once more, this time Madine being harshly punished for handball, and Baldock again beating Chris Kirkland from the spot.
It got worse for the 20,000 home fans when Albert Adomah whizzed in a 20-yard free-kick on 88 minutes to secure victory between the two relegation battlers.
It all left Jones fielding questions about his future – he defiantly refused to walk away from the challenge he faces at Wednesday – and believing Llera’s late rush of blood had cost his side a point.
“Miguel got really excited; he scored a great goal and then gives a penalty away,” said Jones. “Everyone’s excited – just calm down. He’s experienced enough, he’s 33 years of age.
“I see the chairman (Milan Mandaric) every day; he will be upset,” he said. “It’s very hard because I am going up to see him now to talk him through the game. I need the referee to be sitting there with me as well. Or I need Miguel sitting there.
“I am a big boy and I understand the world of football. Everybody thinks a change is always for the best, they think it’s a magic formula.
“Everybody chases the pot of gold, but if it happens, it happens. It’s not a decision that will be mine.
“Personally, I think it would be harsh. I don’t care if it’s 10 or 12 defeats in a row, you have to look at what’s happening and everybody else.”
Wednesday reverted back to a starting XI which looked very similar to the team which got them promoted last season.
Sidelined were Jones’s loan signings Jay Bothroyd and Mamady Sidibe, Madine and O’Grady being coupled together up front.
Only three players started – Kirkland, Martin Taylor and Jeremy Helan – who were not inherited from Gary Megson’s team when Jones took over in March.
Back in a familiar 4-4-2 formation, Wednesday showed glimpses of their old self, with wingers Johnson and Michail Antonio dangerous down the flanks, while Lines probed away in central midfield.
What they missed, though, was that clinical finish on their numerous attempts on Heaton’s goal, but in the disappointment of defeat, Wednesday fans were at least appreciative of an improved display from their team.
Jones, though, was left to rue what might have been.
“It is another defeat that is hard to take,” he said. “We were winning the game 2-1 and should have had more goals but that composure just isn’t there at the moment.
“(Saturday) was a prime example of when your luck is out, it’s out, which is silly because for 84 minutes our luck was in. Then whatever conspired in those six or seven minutes is a killer blow for everybody associated with the club.
“If we had shown a bit more composure and care, because we got in time and time again, we should have been out of sight. While it is 2-1, there’s always hope, and we gave them hope.”
It was City’s third win in the last 15 games and took them above the drop zone on goal difference from Barnsley and three points ahead of next-to-bottom Owls.
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Saturday 18 May 2013
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