Wednesday 0-1 Plymouth
28/10/08 - 7.45pm
Former Wednesday duo Paul Sturrock and Steve Maclean returned to Hillsborough to inflict a first home defeat of the season on a lacklustre Wednesday in a smash and grab raid on a cold night at Hillsborough.
Just over 16,500 turned out for the clash, the lowest in years at S6, and those that stayed away will have been glad they did as Wednesday huffed and puffed but failed to blow Paul Sturrock's house down on Tuesday night.
Sturrock masterminded the victory, which comes just a number of weeks after the Pilgrims had defeated the Owls 4-0 in the reverse clash at Home Park, as Wednesday slipped to their third successive defeat.
And it was former Owl Steve Maclean who netted the decisive goal with a stereotypical close-range Maclean effort, but the Scot celebrated in respectful fashion in front of the Wednesday Kop.
Owls boss Brian Laws made just the one change to the side that fell to defeat at Birmingham with Francis Jeffers playing alongside Leon Clarke in attack to replace the suspended Jimmy Smith, while Richard Wood was passed fit.
Both sides were looking to bounce back from 3-1 defeats at the weekend and both started in attacking style, with a fast-paced opening from both sides in the freezind conditions.
Wednesday carved out the best chance as Jeffers, making just his second start of the season, linked well with another former Everton man in Steve Watson to send him clear, but self-confessed Wednesdayite Chris Barker robbed him before he could get away his shot.
The effort raised the confidence in the Wednesday team, and with Jermaine Johnson back to his usual self on the wing, the Owls looked the bigger threat in the opening exchanges.
Jeffers showed his 'fox in the box' ability when he turned inside the box minutes later before flashing a deflected effort just over the woodwork for a corner kick, but the Owls' set pieces left little to be desired as Plymouth dealt with them easily.
Jeffers was at the centre of the early Wednesday attacks, and his 'little and large' partnership with Leon Clarke seemed to be working when he duo linked and the latter sent an effort over the bar.
But despite Wednesday dominating the early exchanges, somewhat typically it was the visitors who made the breakthrough after just 23 minutes when Maclean tapped home from close range to give Owls fans a tast of what they've been missing.
Wednesdayites in the Kop and players alike appealed for offside when the Wednesday defence stepped out from a corner, but Johnson left the Scot onside to tap in the simplist of goals to give Argyle a lead they were to never relinquish, but to Macca's credit he didn't celebrate in front of the Wednesday fans.
The chances dried up before half-time as Plymouth looked happy to sit back and let Wednesday throw what they had at them in search of the equaliser, but Wednesday coninued to press and looked like they could forge a way through with Esajas and Clarke both going close.
And Owls fans were pointing the finger in anger again at the officials as Sean McAllister had the ball in the back of the net just before the break but saw his effort chalked off for an infringement.
McAllister and Clarke both pounced on the loose ball from Luke Summerfield, but the referee adjudged Clarke to have fouled Summerfield before the midfielder slotted the ball in to the back of the net.
Much like last season, Plymouth's gameplan in the second half was there for all to see as Lee Grant had little, if anything, to do in the second 45 minutes with Argyle throwing men behind the ball and thwarting all Wednesday had to throw at them.
Last season, the Owls had to rely on a spectacular Tommy Spurr effort to take a share of the spoils in a similar style clash, but Laws was taking no risks this time around as he made a double substitute to try and change the flow of the game.
Jeffers, who performed well in the opening exchanges but had started to struggle, was replaced by Deon Burton, while skipper Wood had to leave the field with an injury, Frank Simek making a welcome return to the back line, with Lewis Buxton reverting to centre-back.
It was good to see the American right-back returning to action, but the need for more match fitness was evident for the vast majority inside Hillsborough.
Wednesday bossed the possession, but struggled to make any impact when they got in to the final third as the Argyle defence coped pretty comfortably with everything that was thrown at them.
Clarke had the best chance to level when he linked well with Burton to be put through on goal, but another last-ditch tackle prevented the lanky hitman from getting a shot away and the danger was cleared for a corner.
For all the stick the former Wolves man has received, especially this season, he looked the most likely of the Wednesday frontmen to do anything with the ball as the Owls reverted to long balls and deep crossed in to the Plymouth box with little coming in return.
Akpo Sodje was thrown on to the pitch as a last resort in place of Etienne Esajas, relatively quiet throughout, but despite lifting the crowd somewhat, Sodje failed to have much of an impact on the game as the minutes ticked away to three points for the visitors.
Wednesday: Grant, Buxton, Wood (Simek 57), Spurr, Gilbert, Johnson, McAllister, Watson, Esajas (Sodje 71), Jeffers (Burton 57), Clarke. Unused substitutes: Boden, Small.
Plymouth: Larrieu, Duguid, Paterson (Timar 74), Clark, Barker, McNamee (Walton 62), Seip, Summerfield, Cathcart, MacLean (Fallon 68), Gallagher. Unused substitutes: Marin, Noone.