Cardiff 1-0 Wednesday
04/03/06 - 15:00
Despite a spirited second half performance, a single first half Cameron Jerome strike was enough for Cardiff to sink the Owls to their fourth successive defeat at Ninian Park.
The day was made worse for Wednesday as Millwall recorded a 2-1 victory thanks to an injury time winner against Luton Town. The victory means the Lions have closed the gap on Wednesday to just two points as the relegation dog fight heats up.
Owls boss Paul Sturrock switched to a 3-5-2 formation in a bid to collect some much needed points against a Cardiff City gunning for promotion. Lee Bullen, Patrick Collins, and Graham Coughlan made up the back three with Frank Simek and Burton O'Brien operated as wing backs.
Sturrock welcomed back Yoann Folly who was ineligable to play against Southampton, and put him in a middle three alongside Chris Brunt and Glenn Whelen.
Striker Steve Maclean was ruled out with a toe injury, so Marcus Tudgay partnered Deon Burton - who had recovered from a hamstring injury - in attack.
Dave Jones decided on sticking with the same side that lost 2-1 to Watford last week. Stephen Thompson partnered Cameron Jerome in attack, while former Owl Guylain Ndumbu-Nsungu could only find a place on the bench.
Dutch defender Glenn Loovens returned the squad, but was unable to find a place in the starting eleven thanks to the form of Neil Cox.
In the reverse fixture at Hillsborough earlier this season, striker Cameron Jerome ripped the Owls defence apart, scoring twice in a comfortable 3-1 victory. Paul Sturrock certainly knew of the Huddersfield-born striker's threat to the Owls, and this was taken on to the pitch with a few tough challenges going in on the hitman.
But despite Wednesday's concentration on Jerome, it was nearly his striker partner Stephen Thompson who opened the scoring for the Bluebirds after just two minutes. The creative Jason Koumas provided a perfect ball for the Scot to head what looked like a certain goal. Stand in 'keeper Chris Adamson was up to the test though and produced a magnificent save to keep the scores level.
Wednesday did bounce back and looked dangerous on the counter attack forcing a few corners to keep the hosts in their half of the pitch. Cardiff haven't had the best of times against teams in the lower half of the table, and the 900 or so Owls fans at Ninian Park were hoping for some of the same.
As Wednesday pushed forward, Cardiff looked equally dangerous going forward and carved out a few half chances of their own. The hosts looked to have more of a cutting edge going forward, where as Wednesday didn't really know what to do with it once in the final third.
The deadlock, and what turned out to be the winner, was broken on 19 minutes through Jerome, who hit his 18th goal of the season.
Koumas delivered a dangerous corner in to the six-yard box which was packed with players from both sides. Before the ball could be hooked to safety Jerome popped up and made it 1-0, recording his third goal of the season against the Owls.
On the half hour the Owls nearly hit back through Chris Brunt. Brunt managed to latch on to a rare mistake in the City defence as Scimeca passed back to Alexander in goal. His tame effort went well wide of the goal though, and summed up the recent poor form of the Owls in attack.
The effort had lifted the confidence of the players somewhat, and the Owls had some good possession in the final few minutes of the half. Marcus Tudgay was presented with a good chance just before the break but again his effort was poor and well wide of goal.
In the second half City carried on as they had left off - in control and playing the possession game. Wednesday were unable to get hold of the ball, and when they did they managed to create little with it.
After soaking up some early second half pressure though, the Owls managed to take the game to the hosts, and should have got something from the game for their efforts. Unlike Southampton last week, they didn't lie down and die.
Just before the half hour mark Marcus Tudgay managed to break free down the left flank to provide a good ball for his strike partner Dean Burton, but his effort volleyed over the bar. Glenn Whelen also saw a good effort drift over the bar from the edge of the box. The pressure gave the Owls fans behind the goal something to cheer about, and the team pressed on for an equaliser.
With twenty minutes left on the clock Sturrock decided to change his hand and brought on Leon Best to replace the dissapointing Chris Brunt. Cardiff were sitting back on their 1-0 lead, and Sturrock knew that something had to change if they wanted to leave Wales with any points.
Minutes later came the turning point of the game when Yoann Folly seemed to have won a clear-cut penalty from a Darren Purse challenge. The referee waved away the Owls protests though and gave a corner kick.
The Owls continued to push forward though and were building attack upon attack on the City goal. With ten minutes remaining Burton O'Brien and Glenn Whelen linked well from a free-kick but the chance was fruitless once again.
Cardiff nearly made it game, set and match with five minutes remaining on the clock but Stephen Thompson's effort could only find the side netting.
The Owls couldn't find that vital goal though, and now find themselves just two points from the relegation zone after rivals Millwall beat Luton 2-1 thanks to an injury time winner. The game against QPR next week will be the most important of the season, and only a win will do.
Paul Sturrock told the official SWFC site:
'I thought my players looked sorry for themselves last Saturday and I ripped into them all week. Today they came up with the goods, even if they didn't get the result. If we were to perform like that from now until the end of the season, we will not go down.'
Dave Jones told the official CCFC site:
'But the one thing you can't take away from the players is that they kept working hard, they kept battling away.
'It was difficult to get messages on, we lost our shape but we dug in and you can fault them for that.
'Sometimes it helps being a bit lucky and today was one of them days.''
'Regarding the penalty, from where I was I would have been disappointed if he hadn't of give it.
'We were just looking at it now, me and Paul and you can't really tell; so I didn't see it.''