Sat 06 Feb 16
at 17:00 PM
Report: Blues 1 Sheffield Wednesday 2
Blues went down to a narrow defeat to play-off rivals Sheffield Wednesday as Gary Hooper’s brace decided the contest.
Gary Rowett’s side led at the interval courtesy of Clayton Donaldson’s sixth goal of the season five minutes into first-half stoppage-time.
The big striker also had two other excellent chances to add to his tally and those misses proved costly as Hooper scored twice in the space of four minutes late in the match to turn this needle encounter on its head.
Blues made one change from the side that drew at Bristol City with Jacques Maghoma brought in for David Davis, who dropped to the bench.
The hosts withstood some early Wednesday pressure before almost creating the game’s first chance, Clayton Donaldson inches away from connecting to Jon Toral’s through ball.
This was the catalyst for a terrific couple of minutes for Blues as they penned the visitors into their own area.
One in-swinging corner caused Kieren Westwood real problems and soon afterwards another cross from the left by Maghoma was eventually scrambled away as far as Will Buckley whose shot was blocked by Gary Hooper.
That attack left two visiting players down injured on the ground – Sam Hutchinson and goalkeeper Westwood, the latter eventually leaving the action on a stretcher suffering from concussion having collided with team-mate Tom Lees. He was replaced by Lewis Price after a delay of almost 10 minutes.
Wednesday were the first to threaten after the long break in play with Fernando Forestieri seeing his low drive well blocked by Jonathan Grounds.
Blues responded with Buckley twice putting in dangerous crosses from the right that were diverted behind for corners.
The visitors were forced into a second change midway through the opening period with Hutchinson unable to continue and replaced by Lewis McGugan.
Tomasz Kuszczak was called into the action for the first time on 23 minutes and the Pole wasn’t able to hold onto Hooper’s bobbling shot but Michael Morrison was alert to the danger and cleared for a corner.
Toral tried his luck from distance with a shot that bounced just wide of Price’s left-hand post before Blues created the clearest opening of the first-half on 28 minutes.
Toral’s through ball made its way through to Donaldson, all eyes turned to the assistant who kept his flag down.
Blues' number nine raced clear on goal but as he attempted to slide the ball low past Price, the Owls’ deputy custodian sprung to his left and got a strong hand to the shot to palm it away.
Paul Robinson showed all his experience and strength with two well-timed challenges as the visitors looked to carve a way through the Blues defence.
At the other end Maghoma displayed neat footwork to twist and turn on the edge of the box and get in a shot that curled narrowly over the crossbar.
Wednesday were looking a threat going forward and Hooper rustled the side-netting with one fizzing drive from a narrow angle wide on the right after being laid through by Barry Bannan.
Paul Caddis brought a big cheer from the home fans with a novel along-the-ground header back to Kuscszak and the keeper immediately set Blues on the counter-attack that eventually led the game’s opening goal.
McGugan earned the first yellow card for cynically tugging back Toral but from the free-kick Blues took the lead five minutes into first-half stoppage-time.
Wednesday captain Lees’ attempted clearance deflected back off Morrison and nicely into the path of Donaldson who clinically dispatched the ball into the bottom corner from six yards to send his side into the interval with a lead.
Blues had a great opportunity to double their advantage four minutes after the break.
Magoma dispossessed Ross Wallace wide on the Blues left and drove into the area before cutting the ball back into the path of Donaldson.
This time the striker aimed his shot straight at Price, who was able to parry away the effort. Buckley followed up and tried an audacious back-flick but it flew over the bar and into massed ranks of Blues fans behind the Tilton Road goal.
Hooper saw a header deflected over the bar before a heart-in-the-mouth moment saw Wednesday sub Atdhe Nuhiu get in behind Robinson.
The Blues defender had attempted to let the ball go out for a goal kick but it stuck in the mud. Fortunately Morrison was well placed to clear the ball after Nuhui had poked it past Kuszczak into the six-yard box.
Kuszczak did well to tip the ball over from a long-range Wallace shot as the visitors continued to knock away at the Blues backline.
Wednesday’s pressure eventually told on 77 minutes as some neat passing finished with Hooper crashing in an unstoppable shot from just outside the area that flew in off the underside of the bar.
Carlos Carvalhal’s side almost scored again moments later after Nuhiu weaved his way into the area and fired in an effort but Grounds got in a crucial block to divert the ball over.
However, the visitors did complete a double-quick turnaround as Hooper found the net again on 80 minutes.
Forestieri broke away down the right and his low cross was converted at the far post by Hooper.
Kusczcak had to be alert to turn aside a low shot from Forestieri as Wednesday looked to put the game beyond Blues’ reach.
Blues fans were shouting for a penalty when Diego Fabbrini, who had been introduced a few minutes before Hooper's double strike to a great reception from the home faithful, went down after a tangle of legs with Lewis McGugan, but the referee waved away the appeals.
There were unpleasant scenes late on after James Vaughan’s foul on Ross Wallace brought a reaction from the Wednesday player, earned both players bookings and sparked a melee involved all 20 outfield players.
It summed up a frustrating afternoon for Blues who had looked poised to claim maximum points but eventually went away with nothing.
However, Rowett’s men remain in the thick of the play-off chase, only three points adrift of the top six following a defeat for Ipswich, and with a trip to struggling Rotherham to come in seven days time.