SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY must be heartily sick of welcoming Ipswich Town to Hillsborough.
For the eighth time in nine visits to S6 since the turn of the Millennium, the Tractor Boys made the long trek home with some reward for their efforts after substitute Jonny Williams had cancelled out Atdhe Nuhiu’s early opener.
Being pegged back was harsh on Stuart Gray’s side, who, but for a wobbly couple of minutes before half-time, had rarely been troubled by the visitors from Suffolk.
It was a similar story after the equaliser with Wednesday doing the majority of the pressing in the final quarter only to fail to apply the final touch that would have brought a rare victory over Ipswich.
Not that this probably came as much of a surprise to those locals in the 18,093 crowd who had witnessed most of Ipswich’s other visits since the two clubs resumed combat in the second tier following the former UEFA Cup winners’ relegation in 2002.
Nevertheless, there was an unmistakable sense of ‘what if?’ for the hosts at the final whistle as Ipswich made it four wins and four draws from those visits to the blue half of Sheffield.
Wednesday’s frustration on missing out on a rare three points against Ipswich was understandable after a tireless and hard-working display.
Neat and tidy on the ball, the Owls also had creativity in the form of Chris Maguire and Jacques Maghoma out wide while both Stevie May and Nuhiu ran themselves into the ground up front.
What was absent, however, was the genuine quality that is required to prosper in the Championship.
After a chastening week that had brought a seven-goal Capital One Cup thrashing at holders Manchester City and a disappointing defeat to Cardiff City, Wednesday needed a good start.
They got it, just five minutes having been played when Nuhiu put Gray’s side in front with a sublime near-post header that simply had too much power for Dean Gerken in the visitors’ goal.
Gerken had brilliantly kept out a deflected Maguire effort moments earlier so could perhaps consider himself unfortunate to see his side fall behind from the resulting corner.
That, though, should take nothing away from both the textbook nature of Nuhiu’s header or the incisive corner from Maghoma that created such an inviting opportunity.
Wednesday looked to have repeated the trick from another corner just before the mid-point of the first half.
This time, Maguire sent over a corner that was just begging to be powered goalwards. This was exactly what Glenn Loovens did to bring a stunning reflex save from Gerken, who could then only look on in horror as Kamil Zayatte headed the rebound into the net.
Much to Wednesday’s frustration, however, the celebrations were immediately cut short by referee Darren Bond indicating a foul by Zayatte on an Ipswich defender.
This was a major let-off for the Tractor Boys and one they came close to capitalising on twice in first-half stoppage time.
First, Tyrone Mings picked out Daryl Murphy with a wonderful left-wing cross that the striker headed agonisingly wide.
Then, from the opposite flank, Luke Hyam picked out Murphy with another excellent delivery only for his header to also miss the target.
Those two near misses should have been a warning to Wednesday but just after the hour the hosts had been pegged back.
A flowing move down the Owls’ left flank created the initial problem that was then compounded by the ball only being half cleared to Williams.
Signed less than 24 hours earlier on loan from Crystal Palace, the substitute controlled the ball before hitting a shot that flew in off the inside of Kieren Westwood’s post.
It was a blow for the Owls, who had seen a ‘goal’ chalked out for the second time in the evening just five minutes after the restart when Nuhiu was rightly adjudged to have been offside.
But Gray’s men responded admirably as Maguire, after evading a couple of challenges, fired a right-footed shot that was deflected an inch or so wide.
May should then have at least tested Gerken after being picked out by Maghoma 13 minutes from time.
That could have proved even more costly in the closing stages but Murphy was, not for the first time in the evening, way off target when presented with an excellent chance by Paul Anderson to ensure that honours ended even.
Sheffield Wednesday: Westwood; Buxton, Zayatte (Dielna 37), Loovens, Mattock; Maguire (Helan 72), Palmer, Semedo, Maghoma (Drenthe 82(; Nuhiu, May. Unused substitutes: Kirkland, Coke, Madine, Hope.
Ipswich Town: Gerken; Parr, Berra, Chambers, Mings; Hyam, Skuse, Bishop (Williams 57, Bru 88); Murphy, McGoldrick, Sammon (Anderson 74). Unused substitutes: Bialkowski, Smith, Bajner, Tabb.
Referee: D Bond (Lancashire).