Wednesday 1-0 QPR
9/12/08 - 7.45pm
Wednesday continued their impressive run of form with their third win in four outings in a scrappy match against a physical Queens Park Rangers side at Hillsborough on a chilly Tuesday night.
Leon Clarke's second half strike was the difference between the two sides, as Hillsborough witnessed its lowest league crowd in over eight years for the visit of Rangers, who had only scored two goals on their travels all season.
And that was obvious for all inside S6, as Wednesday survived some scares, but eventually improved in the second half to edge the match and deserve all three points to lift them ever closer to the play-off spots.
Owls boss Brian Laws made just the one change to the side that drew at Southampton at the weekend with Lewis Buxton missing out through illness and Tommy Spurr being drafted back in at left back, despite Laws' hopes to rest the returning Frank Simek at right-back.
Wednesday have made a bad habit of starting poorly in matches recently and it was no different against the R's, with neither side looking particularly threatening in the opening, scrappy exchanges.
Owls' stopper Lee Grant was to come out of the match as the hero with his penalty save later on in the half, but the Wednesday number one was almost the villian after just ten minutes when his poor clearance landed right at the feet of the QPR attack and former Fulham and Watford man Heidar Helguson should have found the back of the net only for Grant to make amends with a top drawer save to spare his blushes.
The match saw little in the way of chances for the next 15 minutes, with the freezing crowd in attendance being given little to warm them up and get them up and out of their seats.
And the majority of the lowly 15,000 crowd will have been wishing they'd have stayed at home in the warm on 25 minutes after the referee rather harshly adjudged Simek to foul the R's attacker inside the box to point for a spot-kick for the visitors.
Hopes weren't high for Grant to make his first penalty save for Wednesday, but his trailing legs thwarted Martin Rowlands to the delight of the Wednesdayites and the danger was cleared.
Owls boss Brian Laws wouldn't have been wanting such a problem to arise but the penalty save certainly got the Wednesday fans, and players, going for the remainder of the half.
But Laws was dealt a blow, having to bring both Etienne Esajas and Simek off with niggling injuries, with Steve Watson replacing Simek at the back and Wade Small coming on as a direct replacement for the Dutchman.
Wednesday burst into life a minute before the break with the best move of the match as a neat move between Clarke and Jeffers gave the former space to shoot inside the box, only to see his effort scrambled clear by the Rangers defence.
Half-Time: Wednesday 0-0 QPR
At half-time, Wednesday fans will no doubt have been anticipating an improved second half following recent weeks, and will no doubt have been wanting a repeat of the Norwich showing that saw Tudgay and Clarke net quickfire goals after the break.
But although Wednesday were to show a vast improvement in the second half, it was still Rangers who came firing out of the traps at the start as former Preston North End man Patrick Agyemang pulled an effort wide of Grant's goal minutes after the resumption.
And another effort followed for the visitors, Helguson this time getting in a shot from just inside th box which forced Grant to parry his effort to safety.
Wednesday enjoyed their best spell of the match 10 minutes in with a number of shots on Cerny's goal which were beaten away, but the home fans could sense a goal was coming after the former Spurs stopper saved a neat Sean McAllister effort from the edge of the box as Wednesday started to show some promising signs.
But with all the promising signs, there were also moments of real frustration for the players, fans and Brian Laws with far too many passes, not under pressure from the visitors, going astray, making the match have 0-0 written all over it.
Lee Cook came on for the R's, firing a couple of efforts harmlessly wide as the visitors looked for a fresh approach in attack.
But Laws also made a change with Bartosz Slusarski replacing the ineffective Francis Jeffers, with the Owls boss opting to play Clarke as the lone front man with Tudgay and Slusarski in suppporting roles.
And the changes soon worked to the hosts' advantage as Rangers failed to deal with a Wednesday cross, and Clarke pounced from close range to stab an effort into the back of the net after Cerny had initially thwarted Tudgay on 74 minutes.
Wednesday had to play out the final ten minutes with just ten men as Wade Small went off with an eye injury, with the Owls having already used all three substitutions.
Rangers pushed forward in search of an equaliser but they could only create half-chances, Cook again firing harmlessly high and wide from long-range as the stubborn Wednesday defence held firm to keep a clean sheet and bag three more crucial points.
Full-Time: Wednesday 1-0 QPR
Wednesday:Grant, Simek (Watson 38), Wood, Beevers, Spurr, Tudgay, McAllister, O'Connor, Esajas (Small 28), Clarke, Jeffers (Slusarski 72). Unused substitutes: O'Donnell, Smith.
QPR:Cerny, Delaney (Hall 88), Stewart, Mahon (Di Carmine 79), Leigertwood, Gorkss, Rowlands, Ramage, Ephraim (Cook 55), Helguson, Agyemang. Unused substitutes: Cole, Hall, Tommasi.