AMERICAN FOOTBALL great Roger Staubach once claimed, “In any team sport, the best teams have consistency and chemistry”.
Sheffield Wednesday were in third place in the Championship on Christmas Day but it is a lack of consistency that is proving detrimental to their play-off push as they slumped to a late defeat at Wigan Athletic.
Jamal Lowe headed the ball into the net in the 90th minute to secure the victory for Wigan, their first in seven home games, as the Owls conceded in the last 10 minutes of play for the 10th time this term.
Their FA Cup success at QPR on Friday – which has resulted in a fifth-round home tie against FA Cup holders and current Premier League champions Manchester City – was preceded by a 5-0 defeat at the hands of Blackburn Rovers and wins at Leeds United and Brighton and Hove Albion.
Their form throughout January is reflective of their entire campaign with the Owls only managing to win back-to-back games on three occasions this season.
Wednesday face two of the bottom three in their next three Championship outings but a tougher test in the shape of Millwall awaits at Hillsborough on Saturday.
The Owls conceded in the last 10 minutes of play for the 10th time this term.
Last night’s fixture presented Wednesday with a perfect chance to kickstart a charge back towards the top-six spots.
Prior to kick off, they had beaten Wigan in six of their last seven meetings and had triumphed in the reverse fixture in October while Monk was yet to be beaten by the Latics as a manager.
Jacob Murphy scored the opener with a thumping header after a dull opening 30 minutes.
But the away side were pegged back when the ball fell to Keiffer Moore in the box and he swivelled and tucked it into the bottom corner just before the hour.
And they were hit with a frustratingly-familiar sucker punch as Lowe’s header looped over Cameron Dawson late on.
With the close of the transfer window looming, Wednesday are determined to bring in a replacement for the injured Steven Fletcher.
Fletcher is comfortably the most prolific forward that the Owls have got, scoring 12 goals. No other Wednesday player has claimed more than four goals this term.
The opening quarter offered little in the way of excitement and the biggest cheer was given for the Wigan groudsman.
The netting in the top corner of Cameron Dawson’s goal had come loose and it took four minutes for referee and groundsman to resolve the issue.
Prior to the lengthy stoppage to fix the goal, Atdhe Nuhiu got on the end of a dangerous cross inside the area but couldn’t find the right connection as his tame effort was gathered by David Marshall. Murphy had the biggest opportunity of the opening 30 minutes when he skipped past Kal Naismith with ease but dragged his shot wide of the post from a hugely-promising position.
But the Newcastle United loanee made amends two minutes later as he timed his run perfectly to convert Morgan Fox’s cross.
Barry Bannan has seven assists to his name for Wednesday this term but it was his impact at the other end that proved vital for the visitors in the opening 45 minutes. The Scotland international was constantly breaking up play in front of the penalty area, helping limit the Latics to only one shot on target.
Wigan enjoyed more of the ball but the away side were more effective in possession as they entered the half-time interval with a slender advantage.
But the second half was a different story as Monk’s men barely threatened and were careless with the ball, allowing Wigan to turn the game on its head.
The Owls resistance was broken when Moore tucked the ball past Dawson.
Monk resorted to making an immediate change as Jordan Rhodes replaced Sam Winnall.
Winnall had an effort on target just before the equaliser, despite Kadeem Harris shouting for a pass in on the left as he waited unmarked on the edge of the Wigan penalty box.
Wigan were now looking the more threatening and almost took the lead twice in a matter of seconds.
Substitute Michael Jacobs was unmarked 12 yards out but rushed his effort before Moore flashed a header wide.
It mattered little for the Latics, however, as they scored late on to inflict an 11th defeat of the season on Wednesday.
Wigan Athletic: Marshall; Byrne; Kipre, Naismith, Robinson; Morsy, Dowell (Williams 66); Lowe, Evans (Garner 89), Gelhardt (Jacobs 66); Moore. Unused substitutes: Jones, Massey, Jacobs, Roberts, Williams, Dunkley.
Sheffield Wednesday: Dawson; Fox (Lees 50), Borner, Iorfa, Odubajo; Harris (Reach 70), Bannan, Pelupessy, Murphy; Nuhiu, Winnall (Rhodes 58). Unused substitutes: Wildsmith, Borukov, Hunt, Urhoghide.
Referee: Mr D. Webb (Durham).