Big-match verdict, Derby v Sheffield Wednesday: Owls praised in contentious defeat

Fall guy: No penalty for the Owls after County's Craig Forsyth appears to push Steven Fletcher.
Picture: Steve Ellis
Fall guy: No penalty for the Owls after County's Craig Forsyth appears to push Steven Fletcher. Picture: Steve Ellis
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Carlos Carvalhal was left cursing under his breath as he left the Pride Park press room at Saturday tea-time.

The Sheffield Wednesday coach had just endured a torrid 90 minutes as the Owls slumped to their fourth defeat in five games.

It was bad enough that captain Glenn Loovens – back in the side following several weeks out injured – was sent off after just four minutes.

The centre-back was caught out by the pace of Matej Vydra, bringing down the Derby striker, who then got to his feet and converted the resulting spot-kick.

Rams substitute Bradley Johnson then added a late second to secure three points for the hosts.

But what rubbed salt in the wounds for Carvalhal was hearing his opposite number Gary Rowett concede “it looked an obvious penalty” when Owls striker Steve Fletcher was pushed in the back as he got goal-side of defender Craig Forsyth.

Referee Scott Duncan, according to Carvalhal, admitted to Fletcher that he was pushed in the back, but told the Scotland international he could have stayed on his feet.

“It was a clear penalty,” said Carvalhal. “The worst thing is the referee said to Fletcher that he saw Forsyth’s hand on his shirt but he should stay up.

“I don’t know if I’m more upset that the referee doesn’t give the penalty or what he says to Fletcher because he says to Fletcher: ‘I saw that he push your shirt but you must stay up’, which I think is bad, in my opinion.

“Fletcher has no reason to go down because he is ready to shoot one on one with the goalkeeper, he is a striker who wants to score.

“Okay, Derby got a penalty early in the game for a push. But when Fletcher is pushed, we did not get a penalty.

“So, of course, I am disappointed and frustrated but congratulations to Derby as they won the game.”

That incident was at 1-0, and the chance of an equaliser from the spot – plus parity restored with a red card for Forsyth –would have set-up an intriguing second half.

It was a first-half filled with several big calls for the officials. Owls goalkeeper Keiren Westwood survived shouts for a red card after rushing out of his area to block a shot.

Home fans claimed he used his arm rather than chest but television replays were unclear.

The visitors also had a second rejected penalty appeal when Curtis Davies lunged in from behind on Gary Hooper.

“The defender didn’t touch the ball and Gary Hooper went down,” said Carvalhal. “It seemed like a penalty.”

Rams attacker Johnny Russell was also booked in the second half, as he appealed for a penalty, with the referee accusing him of diving.

Despite playing for the majority of the game with 10 men, and with pressure on Carvalhal to halt a slide which has seen them drop to 16th in the Championship, this was a much-improved Owls display.

They escaped conceding a second when the impressive Tom Lawrence raced through to dink the ball over an onrushing Westwood, but hit the post.

The Owls had their chances. Carvalhal kept his attack intact, despite the red card, to play 4-3-2 – with left-back Morgan Fox forced to partner Tom Lees in the middle. Hooper blasted over from a narrow angle, and Fletcher should have found the target with a free header from Ross Wallace’s corner.

Barry Bannan fired narrowly wide from 25 yards, and Westwood stuck out a foot to deny substitute Chris Martin’s flicked header. Yet the Owls goalkeeper was left helpless when Johnson turned and fired in after good work from Russell.

It all meant – whatever the rights and wrongs of the officials – the Owls had failed to win away for a sixth successive game.

Carvalhal was left to praise an Owls team missing Sam Hutchinson after a sickness bug.

“We came here to win the game, we prepared well,” said Carvalhal. “I know my players and how we have been training.

“They came here with a determination to win the game. I had this feeling and saw it with my own players. The red card made things more difficult but they fought, ran a lot and played with quality. They achieved situations to score but we didn’t score.”

With reported trouble between in-fighting Wednesday fans during the game, Owls goalkeeper Westwood urged unity.

He Tweeted: “The feedback I got was there was fighting between the supporters today.

“Listen... that’s the last thing that needs to be happening. There’s kids, families at matches and safety is paramount. If anything, in tough times we should be together, united and try to be as one. As a team, as a support and as a club.”

Derby County: Carson, Wisdom, Keogh, Davies, Forsyth, Huddlestone, Ledley, Russell, Vydra (Thorne 88), Nugent (Martin 61). Unused substitutes: Baird, Johnson, Pearce, Weimann, Mitchell.

Sheffield Wednesday: Westwood, Hunt, Lees, Loovens, Fox, Wallace (Matias 82), Lee, Bannan, Reach, Hooper, Fletcher (Joao 65). Unused substitutes: Wildsmith, Jones, van Aken, Palmer, Nuhiu.

Referee: S Duncan.