Wednesday’s play-off hopes suffered a setback with a 3-2 defeat at rivals Oxford today.
We arguably should have had the game wrapped up by the interval after dominating the opening half, led twice but were pegged back on both occasions and it was ex-Owl Sam Winnall who grabbed the home side’s late winner, leaving Wednesday to reflect on another desperately disappointing afternoon.
The reverse sees us still in eighth place but now six points adrift of the play-offs and urgently in need of a winning run to revive those flagging hopes of an instant return to the Championship.
Wednesday got off to just the start we wanted against one of the sides jostling alongside us for a play-off place, Barry Bannan volleying home on seven minutes from the edge of the box after being set up by Massimo Luongo at the end of good build-up play.
We continued to control the game and home keeper Jack Stevens kept out Jack Hunt’s header, then Hunt was unfortunate not to earn a penalty on 27 minutes when tackled from behind by Steve Seddon before Fisayo Dele-Bashiru gave Sylla Sow the chance to make it two on the half-hour mark but his shot lacked power and was blocked.
Oxford had posed few problems before going close on 37 minutes, a combination of Bailey Peacock-Farrell and Hunt stopping a low long-ranger from Cameron Brannagan on the line.
However, the home side did grab an unlikely equaliser in added time when Matty Taylor outjumped Marvin Johnson to head home from Marcus McGuane’s left-wing cross.
Buoyed by their leveller, Oxford began the second half in livelier fashion but Wednesday regained the lead in style on the hour through sub Josh Windass, just two minutes after coming onto the field. He dummied the ball inside the box for Lee Gregory and when Gregory found him with a short weighted return pass, Windass drilled the ball across goal and into the far corner of the net.
Typically, the joy of the sellout 1,444 travelling Wednesday fans was short-lived, Oxford grabbing a second equaliser almost immediately as casual play allowed the home side to find their way into the penalty area and, although Peacock-Farrell stopped the first point-blank effort from Taylor, the striker was able to stab home the rebound from close range.
Peacock-Farrell was called into action again to turn away a shot from Sykes and then, with 12 minutes left, sub Jaden Brown fluffed the chance to put us ahead for a third time, hooking past the post from close range after being picked out by a Bannan header.
And we paid the price for that miss just six minutes later. Not for the first time this season, we failed to defend properly from a set-piece and Winnall was allowed to head home Billy Bodin’s corner from close-in.
Even then, we had chances to get a late equaliser, Gregory and Callum Paterson both failing to hit the target with headers, and we left the Kassam Stadium with nothing to show for an afternoon that promised so much in the opening 40-plus minutes but, once again, ended in defeat.
Peacock-Farrell, Palmer, Hutchinson, Johnson, Hunt, Luongo, Dele-Bashiru (Paterson 87), Bannan, Mendez-Laing (Brown 76), Sow (Windass 58), Gregory. Unused subs: Wildsmith, Storey, Byers, Berahino.