Wednesday 0-2 Doncaster
16/02/10 - 7.45pm
Wednesday were totally outclassed by a Doncaster Rovers side who completed a historic double over the Owls with a comfortable 2-0 victory at Hillsborough.
An emphatic Elliot Ward overhead kick and a James O'Connor own goal gave impressive Rovers the points at a cold Hillsborough to leave Alan Irvine with his first home defeat since taking charge and leave the Owls in the thick of relegation trouble.
It could have been different had Neil Sullivan not make a superb first-half save to deny Marcus Tudgay with the game locked at 0-0, but Rovers rode their luck somewhat and went on to dominate the game.
It was perhaps a wake-up call for Wednesday following improved form under Irvine, and it could come at a crucial time ahead of a proverbial 'six pointer' against Ipswich Town this weekend.
It could also set alarm bells ringing among Wednesdayites who thought we were all-but home and dry following five wins from Irvine's seven games in charge at S6.
Irvine and his troops were well aware of Rovers' qualities - the Owls boss was present at Doncaster's 1-0 victory over Nottingham Forest at the weekend - but they failed to deal with them after a closely-fought opening 15 minutes.
He stuck with the same side that saw off Blackpool 2-0 seven days ago.
In contract, injuries meant Rovers boss Sean O'Driscoll was forced into making changes to his side. New signing Ward, who arrived at the club on loan from Coventry City, was put straight into the heart of the Doncaster defence.
Billy Sharp, too, was included and made no secret of his desire to complete his 'childhood dream' of scoring against Wednesday at Hillsborough.
Although Rovers were well worthy of all the spoils it was Wednesday who edged the opening exchanges, Tom Soares being given the first opportunity but his weak effort was comfortably collected by Sullivan.
It was a sign of what was to come from the on-loan Stoke City midfielder, who endured one of his poorer matches in the blue and white since his arrival at the club.
Not to single Soares out, there were a number of poor individual performances throughout the Owls squad, Luke Varney was another one who went pretty much un-noticed throughout, while Marcus Tudgay also left plenty to be desired.
In fact it was a theme that ran throughout the starting eleven, with little to cheer about from a Wednesdayites point of view.
Michael Gray had a rare off day and looked disinterested, while Frank Simek, too, suffered a bad day at the office.
It was Soares again who came ever closer for Wednesday just minutes later when Varney saw his effort blocked by Sullivan and Soares followed but smashed his effort against the post when he should have tucked it away.
The game was relatively even but Wednesday continued to carve out the best chances in front of goal.
This time it was Tudgay's turn to hit the woodwork when he was left in acres of space but couldn't beat former Leeds and Spurs stopper Sullivan, who tipped his effort onto the woodwork.
It seemed like it was going to be one of those days for Wednesday, and their poor finishing in front of goal seemed to act as a blow to their confidence, allowing Rovers to up their game and start to get on top.
Sharp was relatively quiet early on but he gradually got into the game and saw a looping header brilliantly tipped over Grant.
It marked the start of a Rovers spell of dominance.
Doncaster starting passing the ball around well, confusing the Wednesday defence with their changes of formation, and in turn it saw Wednesday crumble under the pressure.
James Coppinger directed a low effort just wide of goal as Rovers edged closer and closer to the opener and it came just six minutes before the break.
Sharp was left to keep the ball inside the Wednesday box, with no tackles coming in from the Owls defence, and he managed to cross a ball which Ward superbly diverted into the back of the net in emphatic style.
The big centre half was well positioned to drill an overhead kick in off the underside of the bar to give Rovers the lead at the interval.
Half-Time: Wednesday 0-1 Rovers
Wednesday needed to make a bright start to the second half following their first-half collapse and to their credit they did, but it still wasn't enough to break down the Rovers defence.
Tudgay did come close when he saw his tight header forced round the post by the on-song Sullivan but it was to be the closest Wednesday were to come to finding the back of the net.
Irvine needed to change things and he brought Leon Clarke off the bench to replace Soares, with Tudgay moving to the right wing and Clarke joining Varney in attack.
It did little to change the flow of the game though as Rovers continued to deal with everything Wednesday had to offer, while looking threatening in attack at the same time.
Rovers' second came just after the hour mark and left Wednesday fans leaving Hillsborough with seemingly no way back into the game.
Grant saved an initial effort from Rovers before Sharp lashed the rebound across the face of goal and O'Connor sliced his attempted clearance by Grant and into the back of the net.
With the flow of the game as it was, it was all-but over for Wednesday, and although they huffed and puffed for a way back into the game it was Rovers who finished the stronger and who looked like adding to their total.
The Owls will need a big improvement if they're to bag three points against Ipswich Town at the weekend, something which is a huge match in the battle against the drop.
Full-Time: Wednesday 0-2 Doncaster