Sheffield Wednesday 1 Derby County 3 - Owls errors prove costly at Hillsborough

Sheffield Wednesday might need to borrow the Headingley scoreboard for their next game.

Despair for the Owls and Fernando Forestieri. Pic Steve Ellis

For Premier League champions Manchester City are due to Hillsborough on Wednesday, and another error-laced display like this and Pep Guardiola’s side will run up a cricket score.

In their last five home games, the Owls have lost 5-0 to Blackburn Rovers, 3-0 against Reading and gifted Derby three goals in a terrible opening 45 minutes.

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To say Wednesday’s defence is fragile is being kind, and Owls boss Garry Monk has a huge challenge ahead against City in the FA Cup.

Two goals from Tom Lawrence and another from Jason Knight – courtesy of a wicked deflection and two strikes where the Owls coughed up possession in their own half – gift-wrapped the Rams win, meaning Josh Windass’s late goal was nothing but a consolation.

After finally ending their long wait for a Hillsborough win – Steven Fletcher’s late goal beating Charlton Athletic in midweek – the Owls made just one change to the starting XI.

In came Fletcher for his first Championship start since December 14, with Connor Wickham dropping to the bench.

Wednesday, perked up by their midweek win, actually started brightly against a Ram side who employed Wayne Rooney in a deep ‘quarter-back’ role in midfield.

But it was the visitors who took a seventh-minute lead, Lawrence’s shot taking a huge deflection to spin away from Owls goalkeeper Cameron Dawson and into the net.

Too often, the hosts were guilty of giving the ball away in midfield, and Dawson made a good save to deny Lawrence a second goal for the visitors.

But the Rams midfielder did net his second on 24 minutes, capitalising on an error from Tom Lees, before placing the ball into Dawson’s left-hand corner.

Derby fans, who had seen their side win only once away in the Championship all season since an opening day success at Huddersfield Town, could not believe their good fortune.

“How **** must you be, we are winning away” gloated the visiting supporters. It was hard to disagree.

The best Wednesday could muster in response was a hopeful 30-yard free kick from Fernando Forestieri which smashed into a crowd of players.

And it got worse for the Owls. Again, they gifted the ball to Derby inside their own half – this time Kadeem Harris the culprit - and Knight fired in the Rams’ third goal inside the opening half hour.

Lees fired wide at the near post from Forestieri’s corner, but the hosts looked shell-shocked.

Monk responded by hauling off Harris before half-time, and sending on an extra forward in Wickham, Forestieri switched to the flank.

Lees was once again guilty of being caught in possession, but recovered to block Martyn Waghorn’s shot, as the players departed to a cascade of half-time boos from the Hillsborough crowd.

Lees and Fletcher stayed off at the break – there were many others who could have joined them - Windass and Dominic Iorfa coming on as Monk looked to regain some respectability.

The changes certainly sparked a reaction from his team.

Craig Forsyth enjoyed a slice of good fortune when he nearly netted an own goal, from Morgan Fox’s cross.

Wickham then created the Owls’ best chance of the afternoon, rounding goalkeeper Ben Hamer before setting up Jacob Murphy, who blasted high and wide.

Hamer tipped away Barry Bannan’s free-kick, before Murphy fired the rebound wide of the post.

It was better from the Owls, and Murphy’s break down the right, ended with a teasing cross which just evaded Forestieri.

Owls defender Julian Borner raced back to deny Chris Martin, the Rams striker having broken clear but lacked the pace to threaten Dawson’s goal.

Kieran Lee was denied a goal by a superb one-handed save from Hamer.

But the goal the hosts’ second-half efforts deserved came on 74 minutes, Windass getting on the end of Murphy’s cross to fire home.

Next up is Manchester City.