ANALYSIS: Sheffield Wednesday striker Atdhe Nuhiu comes to Garry Monk's rescue

Owls' Atdhe Nuhiu celebrates his late equaliser.  Pic Steve Ellis
Owls' Atdhe Nuhiu celebrates his late equaliser. Pic Steve Ellis
0
Have your say

Garry Monk has never tasted defeat at Hillsborough as a manager but until the 94th minute of his home Sheffield Wednesday bow that record looked under threat.

Trailing to a Tom Cairney first-half goal, the Owls looked like they would be frustrated by a street-wise Fulham team.

Garry Monk

Garry Monk

But with Hillsborough natives furious with a series of strange decisions from referee Geoff Eltringham, and the match deep into the five minutes of stoppage time, substitute Atdhe Nuhiu popped up at the back post to send his diving header into the back of the net and unleash a tidal wave of relief around Hillsborough.

Monk celebrated on the pitch, relieved to extend his unbeaten run at Hillsborough as a manager, having yet to taste defeat with the likes of visiting Leeds United, Middlesbrough and Birmingham City.

It also meant Monk had taken four points from his first two games in charge of Wednesday, and is yet to taste defeat.

The Owls – who made one change with Kieran Lee coming in for Jacob Murphy – started with a 4-3-3 formation.

Steven Fletcher went into the game having scored in in his last three matches and had an early chance after 10 minutes.

Barry Bannan broke clear, swept the ball out to Adam Reach, and the former Middlesbrough winger picked out Fletcher at the back post but the Scot’s header was off target.

The same combination came close to an opener 10 minutes later, but Reach’s teasing cross to back post just evaded Fletcher.

Fulham goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli produced a superb double save to keep the match scoreless.

He got down quickly to block Reach’s header, before thwarting Fletcher’s follow-up effort.

The game needed a goal, but Bettinelli denied Lee after the midfielder turned his marker.

In comparison, Owls goalkeeper Kieran Westwood had enjoyed a quiet opening. He was rarely troubled – apart from donning a baseball cap to keep out the sun which bathed his goalmouth at the Kop end – and saw Anthony Knockaert’s free-kick fall comfortably into his arms.

But the Republic of Ireland stopper was beaten three minutes before half-time, after the goalkeeper could only divert a low Joe Bryan cross into the path of Tom Cairney, who slotted home.

While the hosts had the better chances in the opening 45 minutes, they had dropped deeper and deeper as the half progressed. Statistics showed Fulham had a whopping 76 per cent of possession in the first half.

In comparison, Manchester City – beating Watford 5-0 at the same time, 3.45pm on Saturday afternoon – ‘only’ enjoyed 71 per cent possession.

Wednesday had to regain a foothold in the contest, and they did improve after the break.

Bannan and Hutchinson started to see more of the ball, but against a Fulham side packed with Premier League talent – and composure on the ball, rarely wasting possession – chances were at a premium.

Substitute Jacob Murphy nearly made an instant impact, but he headed wide from Barry Bannan’s left-wing cross.

Fellow substitute Sam Winnall’s header was well saved by Bettinelli - although the Owls striker had been flagged offside – and when a deep cross picked out Nuhiu at the back post, the giant forward headed straight at the goalkeeper rather than back across goal.

Tempers flared as referee Geoff Eltringham seemed to lose control of the game.

But in the fourth minute of stoppage time, Kadeem Harris’s cross picked out a diving Nuhiu at the back post to earn the Owls a deserved point.

Monk said: “We pushed right to the end, and got what we deserved, which was a point.

“I said to the players at half-time that it won’t be the last time they face a goal deficit so if they wanted to be a team, to build as a team, then they had to show character, and to come out and fight in that shirt, and I thought they did that wonderfully well.

“There are definitely things we need to work on, but the foundations of fight, spirit, character and organisation, to come fighting back the way we did are most important, and we saw that today.”