Wednesday’s promotion hopes are still alive after escaping with a 1-0 defeat in our play-off semi final first leg at Sunderland tonight.
Trailing at half-time, we survived 15 minutes of extreme Sunderland pressure straight after the restart, before a late Wednesday rally saw us cause a scare or two at the other end.
And, while it was a largely ineffective performance from the Owls, we go into Monday’s second leg with only a single goal deficit and in front of a sellout 33,000 Hillsborough crowd as we look for a place in the Wembley play-off final.
Sunderland looked the far more likely side to break the deadlock in the first half tonight and Lee Gregory had our only real opening of the half after just two minutes, his effort from inside the box going wide when under pressure from a defender.
After that, Sunderland’s pressing saw us resorting to long balls, rather than our passing game, and it was little surprise when the home side’s superiority led to a goal in first-half added time.
It was also totally avoidable as Sam Hutchinson looked to try to control a long through ball, instead of playing it into touch, and was dispossessed by Ross Stewart.
The striker strode forward from 35 yards out and, although Bailey Peacock-Farrell blocked the eventual shot with his foot, Stewart was able to turn home the loose ball from an angle.
Sunderland began the second half with real intent and almost doubled their lead within minutes, Alex Pritchard seeing his 20-yard curling effort come back off the bar with Peacock-Farrell beaten.
Dennis Cirkin missed a clear headed chance soon afterwards and then Patrick Roberts saw his shot deflected over by Hutchinson as the home side continued to turn the screw.
However, Wednesday finally began to establish some foothold in the game in the last 20 minutes and Liam Palmer might have made more of an opportunity when he headed over at the far post
It was certainly Wednesday in the ascendancy in the closing stages, although we almost conceded a second from another defensive howler on 88 minutes.
Peacock-Farrell came out of his area to clear but his attempted headed pass to Hutchinson was wayward and the dangerous Stewart seized on the opportunity, his effort from the edge of the box going just wide.
Attention now turns to Monday’s return leg at Hillsborough to see if we can overturn Sunderland’s slender lead.
Peacock-Farrell, Palmer, Storey, Dean, Hutchinson, Johnson, Byers (Dele-Bashiru 88), Luongo, Bannan, Berahino (Windass 56), Gregory. Unused subs. Wildsmith, Hunt, Dunkley, Mendez-Laing, Paterson.