SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY failed to find a way past spirited Carlisle United, with the League Two mid-tablers earning a Hillsborough replay after a plucky display.
A combination of the woodwork and a couple of fine saves from home keeper Jack Bonham thwarted the Owls, who have now won just once in their past 11 outings.
Lee Bullen, taking charge of Wednesday dug-out duties for the final time in his interim spell, made three changes, with Liam Palmer, George Boyd - making his first appearance since September following shoulder surgery - and Atdhe Nuhiu coming in for Jack Hunt, Jacob Butterfield and Jordan Rhodes.
Handed a chance to impressive in front of new head coach Jos Luhukay, handed a watching brief in the main stand at Brunton Park, Wednesday produced a controlled first half performance and pieced together some nice passing moves, without forging a breakthrough.
Bullen said: “We played some good stuff at times. Looking at some of the other FA Cup results the main thing is we are still in there. Our first half performance was good, but we never got a break in front of goal. We knew we would be up against a resolute defence. The second half was more open and we allowed Carlisle a bit more space and they gave it a go.”
Bullen felt his side controlled large parts of the game. He said: “We created numerous opportunities to put balls into dangerous areas.”
With new manager Luhukay taking the reins on Monday, Bullen said he had been given an assurance that he will be staying on to help him settle in.
Bullen added:”It will be a very interesting time for the club. As a coach I find it exciting to be working with different coaches and looking and learning. Certainly in the short term I will be there to help the new gaffer settle in.
“For the players you could say it’s a clean sheet. These guys are ready, willing and able to prove themselves to the new man coming in.”
Gorging on possession, the Owls were in the box seat for most of the first period, with the closest they came to an opener arriving in the very first minute, when Nuhiu’s header clipped the bar following an excellent right-wing centre from Palmer.
The Cumbrians struggled to get the grips with Nuhiu early on - with the big striker digging out a shot after the ball broke for him in the box on 12 minutes with Jack Bonham making an important parry - and were happy enough to contain the Owls for much of the half.
But gradually the hosts gained confidence as the half wore on and conjured a couple of semi-dangerous moments.
Their best opportunity came on 26 minutes when good work by James Brown found former Owls loanee Hallam Hope on the right hand side of the box and his cross-shot flew just wide.
Other than that, Joe Wildsmith was protected relatively well and had little to do.
A more open game ensued on the restart, with Carlisle looking more proactive going forward and Wednesday displaying threat on the counter.
Reggie Lambe fired an early shot over before excellent covering from Palmer denied Hope before play switched to the other end, with Joao heading over under pressure following a inviting Palmer cross.
More pressure saw Boyd test Bonham at his near post as Wednesday pressed for an opener, which almost arrived just before the hour mark when Joao’s sharp near-post header clipped the post following Jones’ well-delivered free-kick on the right.
The next to chance his arm was Wallace, who cut infield before seeing his rasping drive fizz inches wide with Bonham beaten.
Wildsmith was soon beaten at the Warwick Road end, but thankfully for Wednesday’s sake, an offside flag cut short any home celebrations after Sam Cosgrove headed in following Jamie Devitt’s centre.
Bonham then excelled himself again to brilliantly parry Nuhiu’s goalbound header following another choice centre from Palmer, with an opener stubbornly refusing to go in for the visitors.
Heading into the final ten minutes, it was still anyone’s game, with Lambe testing the reflexes of Wildsmith with a low drive and Rhodes heading wide at the other end as the game ended in a stalemate.
Carlisle United: Bonham; Hill, Liddle, Parkes; Brown; Devitt, M Jones, Lambe (O’Sullivan 85), Grainger; Cosgrove (Bennett 78), Hope (S Miller 78). Substitutes unused: T Miller, Nabi, Ellis, Bacon.
Sheffield Wednesday: Wildsmith; Palmer, Venancio, Loovens, Fox; D Jones, Wallace; Boyd (Rhodes 68), Reach; Joao; Nuhiu (Matias 78). Substitutes unused: Butterfield, Baker, Dawson, O’Grady, Pudil.
Referee: D Webb (Co.Durham).
Attendance: 7,793 (1,916 Sheffield Wednesday supporters).