Garry Monk praised his “relentless” Sheffield Wednesday side for overcoming the loss of top-scorer Steven Fletcher and a defensive reshuffle to move third in the Championship.
Barry Bannan’s brilliant passing apart, the 1-0 win at home to Bristol City was not always an exhibition of football, but considering the handicaps the Owls had to overcome, it was a good victory, albeit one secured with a penalty Robins manager Lee Johnson said the officials had apologised for giving.
Illness ruled 12-goal Fletcher out of the televised game and Monk’s side had to reorganise defensively after half an hour. When Morgan Fox went off injured, Liam Palmer switched from left to right-back, and Dominic Iorfa moved from the heart of defence to full-back to accommodate substitute Julian Borner.
Palmer and Iorfa both helped Wednesday’s attacking thrust in a game where they were the only side really pushing to score.
“Credit to the whole squad,” said Monk. “Foxy had to come off, we had to re-jig the whole back four.
“Whenever you miss your top goalscorer, someone in that form, when you take those goals out of the team.
“Considering all of that, Bristol have some great players and we know this was going to be a difficult afternoon.
“Atdhe (Nuhiu), Jordan (Rhodes) and Sam (Winnall), when he came on, when you take those goals out, we knew it wouldn’t be like last week (when Nottingham Forest were beaten 4-0 at the City Ground) in terms of the difference in the scoreline.
“Considering all of that, it makes it an even better result.
“You’re going to get times like that in the Championship, especially at this stage. We were the ones that didn’t relent and got the result that we wanted.”
Wednesday applied almost all the attacking pressure but were denied by goalline clearances from Ashley Williams and Tomas Kalas, and Daniel Bentley’s 81st-minute save from a curling Bannan free-kick. The Robins offered little in return, although Liam Palmer did also have to head off the line when Tommy Rowe found fellow wing-back and ex-Sheffield Wednesday player Jack Hunt with a cross.
The Owls had two penalty appeals waved away for what they claimed were fouls on Rhodes before Rowe brought down Nuhiu as he tried to get on the end of a flick-on from substitute Winnall.
“There’s a coming together but Rowe’s an experienced player and the big lad (Nuhiu) has read it, gone down, and the referee’s got sucked in,” said former Barnsley manager Johnson.
“Having spoken to the linesman, the linesman didn’t give it and it’s questionable whether it’s inside the box or outside the box.
“I think everybody knows it’s a poor decision.
“The officials let me in early (to their room) to apologise.
“Unfortunately what you can’t do is show them the clip and that’s something that we’re rallying for because they are human and we haven’t got VAR.
“If that decision’s not given, it’s a 0-0 game and although we didn’t show enough attacking prowess or quality for my liking, I thought we defended resolutely and people put their bodies on the line.”
Monk said: “I haven’t looked back at replays yet but my instant reaction was that it was a penalty.”
Fletcher has scored seven goals in his last six matches, and neither his deputy Nuhiu nor Rhodes had much impact, beyond the former winning the penalty which decided the game. Rhodes had made way for substitute Nuhiu by then. The Owls are hopeful the Scot will be back for the Boxing Day trip to Stoke City.