The Owls well-chronicled Championship slump – from third place at Christmas to 12th – has scuppered any hopes of joining City in the top-flight.
Chants of ‘you’re not fit to wear the shirt’ echoed around Hillsborough on Saturday as the Owls crumbled in an abject first-half display against a Derby County team who had only won twice away from home all season.
Wednesday’s statistics are just as alarming. Just one win in their last seven home games, leaving the Owls 11 points above the drop zone, and the threat of an EFL points deduction this month lurking in the shadows.
Wednesday looked a beaten side from the moment Tom Lawrence’s seventh-minute shot took a wicked deflection off Julian Borner to wrong-foot goalkeeper Cameron Dawson.
The home side’s appetite to self-destruct saw captain Tom Lees and Kadeem Harris both surrender the ball in their own half to gift-wrap further goals to Lawrence and Jason Knight.
At 3-0 down after 30 minutes, some Owls fans in the 25,148 crowd had seen enough and headed for the Hillsborough exits.
Owls boss Garry Monk responded by throwing on substitutes Dominic Iorfa, Connor Wickham and Josh Windass, with the latter grabbing a second-half consolation goal.
“It was very frustrating afternoon,” Iorfa told The Yorkshire Post. “We got off to a good start, but it went downhill from there really.
“We were better in the second half, but unfortunately the game was really done by then. We tried our best, but it wasn’t to be.
“It’s been like that the last few weeks. The first goal was a deflection, which is unfortunate, it happens, but it’s how we bounce back from that. We didn’t and then conceded two poor goals again.
“We went in at half-time 3-0 down, and came out in the second half, gave it a good go, but it was too late.”
If the Owls can take any small crumb of comfort, going into Wednesday night’s FA Cup tie with Manchester City in front of the BBC cameras at Hillsborough, they at least ‘won’ the second half 1-0.
“It’s always tough coming on as a substitute,” said Iorfa, who replaced captain Lees at half-time. “My mindset was to give it 100 per cent and try not to concede a goal, which we didn’t.
“We just need to focus on our next game, a big game, and takes our focus away from the league. It’s a welcome distraction.
“It should be a good atmosphere against City, it will be good to play against them.”
Windass is cup-tied so will miss the City match, but along with Wickham gave the Owls some much-needed attacking impetus in the second half.
Craig Forsyth was lucky to avoid diverting Morgan Fox’s cross into his own net, Ben Hamer tipped away Barry Bannan’s corner, before Jacob Murphy stabbed the ball wide.
Wickham rounded goalkeeper Hamer, to lay the ball into the path of Murphy, but the on-loan winger blazed over.
The Rams were looking vulnerable, but Wednesday could not convert their chances.
Murphy’s teasing cross just evaded Fernando Forestieri at the back post, while Hamer’s one-handed save denied Kieran Lee.
Finally, the hosts managed to find the net – just their second goal at Hillsborough in 2020 – when Murphy’s right-wing cross was tucked away by substitute Windass.
The 26-year-old has struggled for game-time since arriving from Wigan Athletic on loan last month, but this was his second goal in three games.
“It’s tough watching from the bench.” said Windass. “They are a great set of lads, good manager, and you don’t want to see your team-mate suffering like that.
“All you can do is try and come on and have an impact, and that’s what I did.
“I am here to score when I get the chance, the position I play in, that’s what you are judged on.
“There was an improvement in the second half, but they probably took their foot off the gas, and anybody can play when you are 3-0 down.
“We need to stop getting ourselves into that situation from 0-0, and play like we did in the second half.
“I have spoke to the manager a couple of times, when you are not in the team, you always ask ‘what can I do better?’.
“It’s a great stadium, great fans, but if you lose 3-1, scoring doesn’t really matter.
“It’s easy for me to sit here and say what went wrong in the first half – I was on the bench – but there were individual errors and lack of confidence.
“But the only way to get confidence is by training, preparing properly, and that’s all we can do.”
Monk added: “The responsibility is all mine and I understand that.
“It’s bitterly frustrating.
“It’s probably the most difficult moment in my career. I am trying to help the players.
“I know that the work I do works, but the results have not been good enough in this period.”
Sheffield Wednesday: Dawson, Palmer, lees (Iorfa 45), Borner, Fox, Murphy, Lee, Bannan, Harris (Wickham 39), Forestieri, Fletcher (Windass 45). Unused substitutes: Wildsmith, Pelupessy, Nuhiu, Da Cruz.
Derby County: Hamer, Bogle, Wisdom, Clarke, Forsyth, Bird, Rooney, Waghord (Marriott 77), Lawrence, Knight (Davies 58), Martin (Shinnie 76). Unused substitutes: Roos, Lowe, Sibley, Whittaker.
Referee: D Whitestone (Northants).