Blackburn Rovers 3 Sheffield Wednesday 1: Wednesday blown away by early whirlwind but still show spirit

AS befitting a rivalry dating back more than 13 decades, there have been some memorable clashes between Sheffield Wednesday and Blackburn Rovers down the years.

Whether it be the two League Cup semi-final tussles that saw the Owls prevail in 1993 and Rovers in the ascendancy nine years later, or the day Benito Carbone scored twice before being sent off as the Yorkshire club crashed to a humbling 7-2 defeat, fans attending these War of the Roses clashes have usually been guaranteed a contest worth remembering.

Last night, however, was nothing of the sort with three goals for the home side inside the opening seven minutes turning the second-round tie into a total non-event.

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Wednesday, whose manager Gary Megson had made eight changes to his starting XI with Saturday’s League One game with Scunthorpe United in mind, simply had no hope of getting back into the tie after a shocking start that saw Ruben Rochina net twice and David Goodwillie add the other goal.

There was, though, at least one crumb of comfort for the Owls manager and that was the manner in which his side kept battling to the end, their much improved composure on the ball in the second half even resulting in substitute Clinton Morrison reducing the arrears.

The problem was, of course, that the damage had already been done.

Wednesday, whose first trip to Blackburn in the 1880-81 season ended in a 4-0 FA Cup victory, were simply blown away by the crisp passing of the home side during those opening exchanges.

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In fact, so bemused were the visiting players by the attacking onslaught that it is debatable whether they managed to make even one tackle before Rovers had gone 3-0 in front.

Certainly, the move that led to the opening goal in the third minute saw the Owls offer scant resistance as Brett Emerton’s drilled cross was swept into the net by Rochina.

Fifty-six seconds later, more powder-puff defending allowed Rovers to double their advantage as Danny Batth was shrugged off with ease by Rochina who then drilled his shot across Richard O’Donnell.

It was the worst imaginable start for the League One side and their night quickly went further downhill when Rovers found the net for the third time, and again with ridiculous ease.

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After Rochina’s quick-fire double, Wednesday had ditched their wing-back formation in favour of 4-4-2 but it made little difference as Goodwillie was afforded sufficient time and space to fire past O’Donnell.

With just six minutes and 54 seconds on the clock, damage limitation was already the order of the night.

In this respect, the visitors were helped by Blackburn, clearly believing anything was possible after such a stunning start, opting to shoot from anywhere, even when a team-mate was much better placed.

Even so, it took a linesman’s flag for offside against Goodwillie to spare Wednesday’s blushes further on 23 minutes after the former Dundee United striker had turned smartly to convert a cross from Rochina.

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In attack, Wednesday offered little during the first half with a scuffed shot from Giles Coke that Mark Bunn had to wait to collect just about summing up the level of attacking threat posed by Megson’s men.

Thankfully for the travelling army of fans who provided terrific vocal backing all night, that changed after the restart.

Morrison, who as with the first-round victory over Blackpool had come on for Gary Madine during the interval, was the man who gave the Sheffield hordes something to sing about with a smart turn and finish on 50 minutes after being picked out by Chris Lines.

A dinked ball over the top by Chris Sedgwick then had Mark Bunn rushing from his line to deny Danny Uchechi before Rovers, realising belatedly that they may have to up their game or risk an Owls fightback, reasserted some form of control.

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Only the agility of O’Donnell denied Blackburn a fourth goal as the Owls goalkeeper bravely kept out Gael Givet’s header before Radosav Petrovic blazed the rebound over the crossbar.

Then, after neat play had opened up the Wednesday defence, O’Donnell spread himself admirably to keep out Goodwillie’s snapshot.

The double save ensured that the night, at least, ended with a respectable scoreline, something that had looked totally out of the question just seven minutes into the game.

However, even allowing for that, it is doubtful that any of the near 2,000 Wednesday fans who made the trip last night will look back on the 140th meeting between these two clubs with any fondness in the years to come.

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Blackburn Rovers: Bunn; Emerton, Givet, Hanley (Lowe 46), Olsson; Nzonzi (Dunn 71), Petrovic, Formica, Pedersen; Rochina (Hoilett 81), Goodwillie. Unused substitutes: Robinson, Salgado, Hoilett, Roberts, Bruno.

Sheffield Wednesday: O’Donnell; Otsemobor (Lines 26), Batth, R Johnson, Reynolds; Sedgwick, O’Connor, Coke, Palmer; Uchechi, Madine (Morrison 46). Unused substitutes: Weaver, Bennett, Semedo, Prutton, Beevers.

Referee: D Webb (County Durham).

Last night’s results: Page 22.