Sheffield Wednesday 2 Charlton 3: Gray left stunned as sloppy Owls slip to defeat

Sheffield Wednesday's Atdhe Nuihu wins the ball in the air (Picture: Dean Atkins).
Sheffield Wednesday's Atdhe Nuihu wins the ball in the air (Picture: Dean Atkins).
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Owls manager Stuart Gray was left stunned after seeing his Sheffield Wednesday side collapse to a self-inflicted defeat.

Wednesday looked set to do South Yorkshire neighbours Barnsley and Doncaster Rovers a massive favour when they romped into a two-goal lead over fellow strugglers Charlton after just eight minutes at Hillsborough through goals from Atdhe Nuhiu and Chris Maguire.

But Gray’s side then imploded, gifting possession to the visitors three times and being punished with clinical precision by Charlton striker Marvin Sordell.

A depleted Wednesday – safe from relegation – were woeful and left Gray unhappy after seeing his side concede 11 goals in their last four games.

“I go back to the Bournemouth game (on Good Friday) where we won 4-2 and we knew we were mathematically safe,” said Gray. “But I said to the players the most important thing is that I don’t want people accusing you of having your flip-flops on and you are on the beach.

“Credit to the players we came out of the traps and we go 2-0 up after eight minutes with two well-taken goals. We suddenly thought it was going to be a bit easy, we started running with the ball, misplaced passes.

“I am just so disappointed because I am talking about three goals that have gone in again and I can’t remember (Chris) Kirkland having a save to make.”

As well as conceding twice at Bournemouth, Wednesday also shipped three goals against Blackburn Rovers and Nottingham Forest in the last fortnight.

“That’s not just the first time, that is happening on a regular basis,” said Gray. “We did complicate it, we started poor passing, decision making, and it gave Charlton a bit of a lift.

“So I am sat here scratching my head. I just wanted us to go on and get more goals.”

The Owls made three changes from the team which beat Bournemouth on Good Friday. In came Giles Coke, Leon Best and Lewis Palmer for Lewis Buxton –out for the season with ligament damage – the suspended Sam Hutchinson and Joe Mattock.

It was an explosive start to the match with three goals inside nine minutes.

Bathed in glorious sunshine, Wednesday took the lead after just three minutes. Nuhiu hammered home from a tight angle, after breaking beyond the Addicks’ defence following a sumptuous pass from Miguel Llera.

And the Austrian striker, enjoying a rich seam of form, soon turned provider five minutes later. This time he cut in from the right flank, before picking out Maguire. The winger initially slipped, but regained his footing to curl home past Charlton goalkeeper Ben Hamer.

Sixty seconds later, visiting striker Sordell reduced the deficit as he latched on to a through ball and clipped it beyond the on-rushing Kirkland.

Wednesday missed two glorious chances to carry on the goals spree. First, Nuhiu prodded wide, before Kieran Lee missed the target with a good chance.

All this before the 12th minute arrived, and a pre-organised chant of ‘There’s only one Johnny Eales’, which sparked spontaneous applause, for terminally-ill Owls supporter Johnny Eales.

But the game then meandered along with neither side offering much, until a sloppy pass from Antonio gifted the visitors possession and Sordell – on-loan from Bolton Wanderers – raced away to equalise before the break.

It was one of Antonio’s last contributions, as the winger was swiftly replaced by Jermaine Johnson in the 44th minute in what Gray admitted was a “tactical decision”.

Gray was forced into his second substitution at half-time, the injured Liam Palmer staying off, seeing midfielder Lee dropping to right-back, and Maguire moving into central midfield. Substitute Joe Mattock came on at left-back, with Jeremy Helan pushed forward to wide midfield.

Kirkland had to be alert to deny Sordell his hat-trick, after some sloppy defending created space for the striker.

Wednesday though, looked lethargic, failing to recapture the breathtaking form of the opening 12 minutes.

And it was no surprise when the visitors snatched a third goal, although once again it was gifted to them on a plate.

This time Nuhiu was the culprit, his back pass dissecting his centre-back colleagues of Llera and Oguchi Onyewu, to leave Sordell to stroll away and score his third goal of the afternoon in front of the unbelieving visiting supporters.

The anonymous Leon Best was replaced by Caolan Lavery for the final quarter, but this was a tepid Owls display and not even Mattock’s ambitious overhead kick late on could salvage a point.

Sheffield Wednesday: Kirkland, Palmer (Mattock 46), Llera, Onyewu, Helan, Antonio (J Johnson 45), Coke, Lee, Maguire, Best (Lavery 67), Nuhiu. Unused substitutes: Taylor, Corry, Martinez, Afobe.

Charlton: Hamer, Jackson, Morrison, Dervite, Church (Ajdarevic 54), Sordell (Obika 90), Harriott (Wilson 81), Solly, Cousins, Fox, Poyet. Unused substitutes: Ghoochanneijhad, Wood, Petrucci, Thuram-Ulien.

Referee: T Harrington.

Man of the match: Marvin Sordell.