Exeter City 2-1 Wednesday
St James Park, Exeter
11/02/12 - 3pm
Wednesday's hunt for automatic promotion from League One this season took a big hit at St James Park as the Owls slumped to defeat against struggling Exeter City.
Jermaine Johnson continued his fine run of form to fire Gary Megson's men ahead in the second half before the Grecians hit back with goals from Billy Jones and captain David Noble to leave Wednesday with a long trip back to South Yorkshire.
The clash was one of just three in the division to go ahead due to the current cold snap. Promotion rivals Sheffield United also played against Wycombe Wanderers, winning comfortably 3-0 to close the gap to a point with two games in hand.
Megson made big changes to the understrength side that lost 3-0 against Blackpool in the FA Cup in midweek with Johnson coming back into the side, while players such as Jose Semedo and Gary Madine also came back into the starting eleven.
The visitors were undoubtedly favourites for the clash, with City failing to score in their previous four matches and winning just once in their last ten.
But they were visibly eager to improve their form and former Barnsley man Daniel Nardiello struck an effort just over the bar minutes into play.
Exeter looked the better side early on and they had the ball in the back of the net after seven minutes, that man Nardiello again, only to see it chalked off for offside.
The Owls burst into life on a chilly afternoon when loanee John Bostock's shot took a deflection for a corner and defender Miguel Llera forced a fine save from City stopper Artur Krysiak from the resulting corner.
The chances saw Wednesday take control of the first half for long periods. But for all their time on the ball, they struggled to carve out many clear cut chances.
The best chances, in fact, fell to the hosts and Nardiello again, who was twice thwarted by impressive blocks by Owls defender Lewis Buxton as the half came to a close.
Half-Time: Exeter 0-0 Wednesday
Wednesday introduced Chris Lines for Bostock at the interval as the visitors looked for another creative way through the City defence.
The Owls continued to have the best of the ball and they finally managed to breakthrough the home defender in the 66th-minute through in-form Johnson.
Buxton's long throw-in wasn't dealt with by the Grecians' defence and Johnson smashed home a powerful effort that have Krysiak no chance with.
It should have been enough to give Wednesday the confidence to see the game out but the hosts hit back just two minutes later to get back on level terms.
Paul Tisdale's men won a free-kick in a dangerous position and Jones stepped up to steer his effort into the back of the net for the leveller.
It was a sucker-punch for Wednesday, who were demoralised from the equaliser, but they kept plugging away in their search for a second, throwing substitute Mike Jones on to add more to their attack.
Lines forced a good save from the City stopper as the game progressed, but it was another set-piece that won all three points for Exeter late on.
This time it was Noble who took command of a free-kick and sent a dipping effort beyond Owls stopper Stephen Bywater and into the back of the net for the winner.
Full-Time: Exeter 2-1 Wednesday
Exeter: Krysiak, Tully, Jones, Dunne, Archibald-Henville, Noble, Nardiello (O'Flynn 87), Coles (Duffy 90), Bauza (Sercombe 65), Bennett, Taylor. Unused substitutes: Pidgeley, Logan.
Wednesday: Bywater, Bennett, Batth, Llera (R Jones 66), Buxton, J Johnson, Semedo, Bostock (Lines 46), Prutton, Madine (M Jones 74), O'Grady. Unused substitutes: Weaver, Morrison.