Wednesday old boy Steven Fletcher, somewhat predictably, damaged our hopes of Championship survival with a late winner in a 1-0 defeat at Stoke this evening.
The unmarked Fletcher struck just seven minutes from time, turning the ball home from close range after we failed to clear a cross into the box, leaving us in 22nd place on 28 points, a point away from the safety zone before tomorrow evening’s games for fellow strugglers Birmingham (28 points), Rotherham (29), Coventry (31) and QPR and Forest (both on 33).
Derby’s added time win at Wycombe tonight takes them onto 34 points, leaving the home side back on 19 points, while our home game with one from bottom Birmingham on Saturday will be another crucial match in the fight against relegation.
We were the better side in the first half at Stoke, with the home team looking like an outfit who had gone 11 games without a win.
Jordan Rhodes flicked the ball over the top early on, then Liam Shaw headed against the bar from close-in, the referee signalling a foul on home keeper Angus Gunn.
Rhodes had a header saved by Gunn and Chey Dunkley’s effort was too high while Stoke hardly troubled Keiren Westwood at the other end.
However, the home side came out in much more positive mood after the break and Wednesday failed to get a foothold back in the game.
Only an excellent block by Tom Lees prevented Fletcher from opening the scoring on the hour and Joe Allon was narrowly wide from the edge of the box.
Then, just as the Stoke pressure began to subside, Fletcher struck with his goal and it was almost two a few minutes later when Westwood kept out Jack Clarke’s header.
Our only goalbound effort of the half came in added time but Gunn saved Lees’ header to complete another away defeat for the Owls.
Westwood, Harris, Urhoghide (Windass 88), Lees, Dunkley (Pelupessy 65), Hutchinson, Reach, Bannan, Shaw, Paterson, Rhodes (Kachunga 65). Unused subs: Wildsmith, Palmer, Borner, Penney, Brown, Dele-Bashiru.