A DISHEARTENING opening day for Sheffield Wednesday, beaten by newly promoted Wigan Athletic.
In a display horribly reminiscent of the disappointing defeat to Preston North End that set the tone for much of what followed a year ago, the Owls were second best on an afternoon when Paul Cook’s men also struck the woodwork twice and kept Cameron Dawson busy.
That Jos Luhukay’s men remained in the contest for so long owed everything to a couple of smart finishes by Atdhe Nuhiu and Fernando Forestieri, plus the inability of the hosts to kill off the game when on top.
Wednesday, down to ten men after Nuhiu’s dismissal on 90 minutes, could even have snatched a point at the death but Adam Reach and Lucas Joao were unable to get a shot away. Steven Fletcher did then bring a save from Christian Walton but the offside flag had been raised.
It meant a disappointing journey home for the 4,500 fans who had made the trip to Lancashire hoping to make a positive start after a summer that had seen their club placed under transfer embargo.
Wednesday breaching the Financial Fair Play rules meant Luhukay has been unable to refresh a squad that for the best part of three years has been horribly short of pace.
That shortcoming was exposed in the 11th minute by a lightning quick break from Antonee Robinson down the Owls’ right flank.
Having nicked the ball past Fernando Forestieri, he raced forward unopposed due to Liam Palmer having just had a shot blocked on the edge of the Latics’ area.
Tom Lees eventually held the Wigan man up close to the touchline, but his cross could only be half cleared and Michael Jacobs fired in from 15 yards.
The Owls reply came nine minutes later, Atdhe Nuhiu showing great persistence to fire in from close range after two earlier efforts had been blocked.
Wigan restored their advantage on 26 minutes, Jacobs again the man in the right place at the right time to capitalise on the visitors failing to clear a Gavin Massey cross.
Jacobs then struck an upright with a rasping shot before the hosts extended their lead on the hour, an awful pass by Bannan failing to find Joey Pelupessy on halfway.
Samy Morsy capitalised and a swift break culminated in Nick Powell opening his account for the season.
Wednesday looked a beaten side at that stage but Forestieri had other ideas, his neat finish after lovely work from Lucas Joao reducing the arrears midway through the second half.
Nuhiu went for a second yellow card after his latest tussle with Chey Dunkley to cap a miserable opening day for the Yorkshire club.
For Wednesday manager Jos Luhukay, it was a disappointing way to kick-off the campaign.
"I was surprised with the lack of stability we had in our defending," he admitted.
"We've had so much progression over the last few months since the end of last season, and today we gave so many chances away.
"This is not what we can do. We have to be much better and we have to get better very quickly.
"I'm not so much worried as disappointed. You expect more than we got today.
"There was a good feeling at the start in the team, but we didn't have any control.
"We lost every second ball, every third ball, and if that happens you don't get the confidence to be able to play.
"The opponent starts to think they are stronger, that they can make chances, and score the goals to win the game.
"I know we can play football, I have seen it many times.
"But when you don't have the trust, you don't have the stability, you don't get the feeling you can win the game."
Luhukay also did not have much complaint with the sending-off of Nuhiu, for clattering Wigan centre-back Chey Dunkley shortly after he'd been cautioned for a bad foul.
"The first yellow card I think was correct," the Wednesday boss added.
"The second yellow card, I can't see exactly what the referee saw.
"But it's stupid, when you already have a yellow, you can't take the chance."