Sheffield Weds 0 Brighton 0: Solid Owls prove another point by matching leaders

Sheffield Wednesday's Jack Hunt chases the ball down against Brighton. Picture: Steve Ellis.
Sheffield Wednesday's Jack Hunt chases the ball down against Brighton. Picture: Steve Ellis.
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GIVEN that both Sheffield Wednesday and Brighton have been two of the Championship’s success stories this season, it was not the biggest surprise they could not be separated last night.

And a point apiece is something both Carlos Carvalhal and Chris Hughton would probably not bemoan too much this morning.

Wednesday headed into the game on the back of an unbeaten 10-match unbeaten run, while the visitors arrived in Yorkshire clutching the last surviving unbeaten record across all four divisions, and were also seeking to equal the club’s all-time sequence without league defeat of 16 games.

On both counts, Brighton were still standing at the final whistle, yet are still awaiting their first win at Hillsborough.

For the Owls, watched by a healthy crowd of not far short of 24,000, it was nothing like the highs experienced last week at the expense of Arsenal in the Capital One Cup.

Substance was at least garnered for Wednesday against a side who have had plenty go their own way so far this season.

In his musings ahead of the game, Hughton said that the Owls were genuine promotion candidates, and on this evidence the margins between the sides were negligible.

Carvalhal heaped praise upon Brighton by suggesting that the game would be tougher than his side’s recent home date with Hull.

Chances were at a premium for most of the night, with the first half struggling to sparkle.

In mitigation, the pockets of quality came from the hosts, with the likes of Barry Bannan, Fernando Forestieri and Lucas Joao providing some nifty touches on occasions without overly troubling the Brighton backline.

It was a full-back in the shape of Jack Hunt who proved a central figure at both ends of the pitch in the two most threatening moments.

The most clear-cut chance arrived on 16 minutes when Ross Wallace’s lovely dinked chip found the marauding Hunt in space down the right, with his low shot blocked at his near post by David Stockdale.

Hunt also displayed alertness at the other end to deny Brighton a breakthrough in the run-up to the interval with a key clearance to deny Solly March, who was waiting to tap in Inigo Calderon’s fine low cross.

By and large, Brighton seemed happy enough to contain Wednesday, who produced some slick interplay at times, as befitting of a side boasting a handsome unbeaten streak.

It was a half for the coaching technocrats on the sidelines in which shape invariably ruled. And in terms of a spectacle, it was one in which most observers would have ventured that one goal for either side would probably be enough to win it.

Given the Owls squad depth and with a natural-born goal predator in Gary Hooper on the bench, it also had the portents of being a night when his skills might have come into their own.

The early signs in the second half suggested Brighton might bring more to the table, with Calderon slipping when well placed before Beram Kayal fired an effort just over.

But Wednesday gradually gained the ascendancy, although their intent was checked by a well-regimented Brighton back four.

Chances for the Owls, with Atdhe Nuhiu thrown on for Joao, were hard to find, with Wallace firing a snapshot wide.

All the while, the lingering worry remained that Brighton, in keeping with their status as leaders, might not be charitable when a clear-cut chance came along.

Luckily for the Owls the chance that patient Albion craved arrived at the feet of a defender, with Uwe Hunemeier stabbing the ball wide from close range after March’s free-kick.

Suddenly sensing an opening, Brighton pressed with the underemployed Kieren Westwood having to be alert to beat away Sam Baldock’s angled shot, with March’s follow-up blocked.

The Owls – who elected not to utilise Hooper – had a couple of half-chances late on, with Daniel Pudil fizzing a shot wide and Nuhiu seeing a close-range effort diverted wide.

Sheffield Wednesday: Westwood; Hunt, Lees, Loovens, Pudil; Wallace (Helan 77), Lee, Hutchinson, Bannan; Joao (Nuhiu 56), Forestieri. Unused substitutes: Wildsmith, Semedo, McGugan, Hooper, Sasso.

Brighton: Stockdale; Bruno, Huenemeier, Dunk, Rosenior; Calderon, Stephens, Kayal, March; Hemed (Crofts 16), Baldock (Manu 90). Unused substitutes: Maenpaa, Goldson, Ince, Murphy, Forster-Caskey.

Referee: Kevin Wright (Merseyside).