Blackburn Rovers 1 Sheffield Wednesday 0: Wasteful Wednesday fail to end poor run at Rovers

Michail Antonio fires
Michail Antonio fires
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IN times of trouble, the home of Blackburn Rovers is probably one of the last places Sheffield Wednesday would wish to visit.

Not only is the Owls’ recent record at Ewood Park less than impressive but Rovers boast one of the costliest squads in the Football League, a fact underlined by the Lancashire club being able to tempt Huddersfield Town to part with star striker Jordan Rhodes in return for £8m just a couple of months ago.

Sure enough, last night’s return trip across the Pennines was made empty-handed as Grant Hanley’s early strike condemned Wednesday to their 10th defeat in 13 visits to Blackburn stretching back nearly a quarter of a century.

The final score, however, told only a fraction of the story as Dave Jones’s men more than matched their expensively-assembled hosts in all but where it matters the most: getting the ball in the net.

In a match where they were the better side for an hour, Wednesday created a glut of chances but, not for the first time this season, they were let down by an inability to finish off good approach play.

Worse still, Rovers goalkeeper Paul Robinson was called into action on only a couple of occasions thanks to a succession of promising openings ending in headers either flashing wide of the target or shooting opportunities being spurned.

And with an all too familiar trait of Jones’s men giving away at least one sloppy goal rearing its head once again, the upshot was the Yorkshire club slipping to a seventh league reverse of the season.

All in all, therefore, this can only be classed as another missed opportunity for Wednesday after letting Leeds United off the hook in a similarly wasteful fashion last Friday at Hillsborough.

Any hopes of keeping a first clean sheet in the league this term had been ended within five minutes last night as poor defending allowed David Dunn to scamper down the left before pulling a pass back for Grant Hanley to finish from close range.

It was the worst possible start for an Owls side looking to build on their heartening 1-1 draw against Leeds and the game had reached the half-hour mark before the visitors had truly settled.

By then, Blackburn had gone close to doubling their advantage as Colin Kazim-Richards fired into the side-netting from a tight angle.

Dickson Etuhu also headed over when found unmarked from a corner before Rhodes was unfortunate to see a chipped effort from the edge of the penalty area loop just wide of a post.

Wednesday were finding it hard to stem the tide in those opening 30 minutes, the demands asked of the midfield meaning Gary Madine was left isolated as the lone frontman.

Eventually, however, the Owls finally found some attacking rhythm and were unfortunate not to go in level at the break.

First, Michail Antonio was crudely upended to hand the visitors a free-kick 25 yards out that Miguel Llera curled inches wide of an upright.

A stunning 50-yard pass from Jose Semedo then released 
Antonio, who after holding off one crude challenge narrowly failed to hit the target with a shot from 15 yards.

After finishing the first half in the ascendancy, the Owls maintained their dominance from the restart.

Llera was the first to threaten with a header that flashed across Robinson’s goal before Ross Barkley went similarly close with a drilled 20-yard shot.

Dogged work from Antonio then sent Lewis Buxton scampering clear down the right but, after leaving Jason Lowe floundering with a neat step inside, the full-back could only shoot wide of the target.

As Blackburn’s own play became more and more ragged, the visitors continued to dominate as Robinson saved a low shot from Semedo.

Barkley then looked to have wriggled through the Rovers defence only for a desperate late challenge to halt the loanee in his tracks.

Such was the command Wednesday held that Blackburn’s best chances of the second half came at the climax as Llera cleared a deflected free-kick from Morten Gamst-Pedersen off the line.

Chris Kirkland also pulled off a flying save to deny a long-range effort from Pedersen to keep the visitors in the game.

It was a save of the highest order but, ultimately, one that proved in vain as even five minutes of stoppage time could not yield what would have been a deserved equaliser to leave Wednesday once again pointless after a trip across to Ewood Park.

Blackburn Rovers: Robinson; Orr, Givet, Dann, Olsson (Pedersen74); Kazim-Richards (Murphy 83), Lowe, Etuhu, Hanley, Dunn (Rochina 35); Rhodes. Unused substitutes: Kean, Formica, Gomes, Rosado.

Sheffield Wednesday: Kirkland; Button, Taylor, Llera, D Jones (O’Grady 89); Semedo; J Johnson, Corry (Rodri 77), Barkley, Antonio; Madine. Unused substitutes: Davies, Maguire, Mattock, Rodri, Pecnik, Mayor.

Referee: P Gibbs (Solihull).