Wednesday 2-2 Newcastle
26/12/09 - 12.45pm
Sean McAuley picked up his first point as Owls caretaker boss as James O'Connor's header on the hour gave Wednesday a share of the spoils in a Christmas cracker against table-topping Newcastle United.
The Owls were flying early on after Luke Varney opened the scoring 14 minutes in, but the Magpies turned the game on its head with a quick-fire double from Kevin Nolan and Shola Ameobi.
Wednesday showed plenty of battle on the resumption though and deservedly grabbed a share of the spoils.
McAuley made three changes to the side that fell to defeat at home to Swansea City last time out.
Tom Soares, on loan from Stoke City, got his first start in the blue and white stripes, while Frank Simek and Luke Varney were also brought back into the first team.
Lewis Buxton, Sean McAllister and Leon Clarke were the players to miss out, while Michael Gray wasn't fit enough to feature in the starting line-up.
McAuley failed to get much of a response from his side last time out, but Wednesday seemed to be in much better form in the opening exchanges as they stopped the visitors from playing any kind of free-flowing football.
Boxing Day matches are always a special occasion at S6, and it was even more special given the 30th anniversary of the famous Boxing Day Massacre at S6.
The atmosphere inside Hillsborough was fantastic, with the fans getting behind Wednesday and the 5,000-plus Newcastle fans doing their bit in the Leppings Lane end.
It aided the Owls more in the opening exchanges though, and Wednesday's early form resulted in Varney breaking the deadlock 14 minutes in.
O'Connor flighted in the perfect cross for Varney to jump high and head an unstoppable effort into the back of the visitors' goal to get the majority of the 30,000-plus inside S6 on their feet.
Confidence was oozing from Wednesday and they came close again with long range efforts from Darren Potter and Marcus Tudgay.
Challenges, and good challenges at that, were coming in from left, right and centre from the hosts, with midfield duo Potter and O'Connor enjoying arguably two of their better outings in a Wednesday shirt.
But all Wednesday's hard work went to waste just five minutes later when the visitors grabbed an equaliser totally against the run of play.
It was more poor defending that cost Wednesday, as Danny Guthrie provided a deep cross from the right to allow Nolan a free header at the back post, and he made no mistake to make it 1-1.
And the game was turned on its head not long after as Newcastle enjoyed a purple patch.
This time more poor defending, and a controversial decision by the officials, allowed Ameobi to turn in what seemed like an offside position, before firing a superb strike by Grant.
Offside or not, Darren Purse failed to pick up Ameobi, and he duly turned in his free space to put the visitors ahead - someone of Ameobi's quality isn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth.
With Newcastle in command, the Owls' confidence looked drained, and the hosts rarely threatened the visiting goal before the half-time whistle went.
Jermaine Johnson, never real in the game as a big threat, saw a long-range, angled snap-shot go into the side netting.
But, although Wednesday had more than matched their visitors in terms of desire and commitment for the first 45 minutes, the difference in quality was there for all to see.
Half-Time: Wednesday 1-2 Newcastle
The Owls needed a similar start to the second half as they did in the first, and they duly got one.
Whatever McAuley said to his troops in the dressing room at half-time seemed to work, and Wednesday continued their hard work to get back into the game, adding a bit of quality into the mix too.
The first warning sign came when Wednesday forced a number of corners at the Kop end through sheer determination - chasing lost causes and never letting the Toon get into their stride.
It was from one such corner that Mark Beevers rose high to meet a Potter cross and glance his header just inches wide of the goal.
Wednesday's confidence looked good, and the belief was there.
Probably Wednesday's best move of the match saw a string of passes work the ball down field, and Johnson didn't have much time to react when he found himself in on goal, but bundled his shot wide.
Wednesday's hard work paid off on the hour mark when O'Connor snatched the leveller.
A deep cross from Tommy Spurr, again on the end of a fine move, looked to have been too far before Varney rose high to win the header and see his shot come back off the crossbar, only for O'Connor to be well positioned to steer home the rebound.
It was all Wednesday and they could, and probably should, have bagged their third of the match just five minutes later.
Soares found his way to the byline and he pulled back a dangerous cross which Tudgay flung himself at, connected, and saw Steve Harper produced a superb save to send the ball wide of the post when a goal looked the likely outcome.
Etienne Esajas was brought into the mix to replace Jermaine Johnson, while Leon Clarke was also brought on to replace the hard-working Varney not long after as Wednesday looked for the winner.
But while Wednesday were enjoying much of the possession, the visitors always looked dangerous at the other end, and Ameobi almost came close to snatching a third only for Grant to pull off a fine save of his own.
Substitute Andy Carroll also came close to finding the back of the net just minutes after he was brought on to the pitch.
But Wednesday were left pleased with a point to show for their efforts, and McAuley will be hoping his men can show the same desire and belief when they travel to Blackpool on Monday.
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