Coventry City suffered their first defeat in nine at bottom of the league Sheffield Wednesday – the Owls recording their first win in ten games.
Former Sky Blues keeper Keiren Westwood was in inspired form on his return to the starting line-up, making a string of saves to deny Mark Robins’s men who looked arguably the better side and certainly created the better chances,
The game started at a frantic pace but with City on the front foot and looking to pick some early holes through Wednesday’s defence, with Callum O’Hare enjoying plenty of space in the final third.
Max Biamou was restored to the starting line-up as Robins went with two strikers up top, and the powerful centre-forward asserted himself early, shrugging off a defender and driving forward to unleash Coventry’s first attempt of the game with a hard and low shot that Keiren Westwood pushed wide at his near post.
The former Sky Blues favourite then tipped away a far post header from Leo Ostigard to keep his side on level terms as the visitors enjoyed 62 per cent of the possession in the first half when Wednesday were limited to a couple of corners and two woeful long-range shots high over the bar before finally carving out a clear cut goal scoring opportunity in the 24th minute.
Some clever build-up play resulted in striker Josh Windass receiving the ball at his feet in the box, only for his powerful shot to be denied by a brilliant block by Ben Sheaf.
The half was more balanced as it approached the break when Tyler Walker limped off injured, replace by Amadou Bakayoko.
Coventry controlled possession again early in the second half when Ben Wilson was called upon to make his first save, diving low to deny Windass from outside the box.
But it was Westwood who denied City for a third time on 58 minutes when he palmed away a cross-cum-shot from Sam McCallum before Ostigard had a far post header cleared off the line from a corner.
Coventry then invited trouble when Wilson cleared straight to Barry Bannan, forcing Ostigard to take one for the team and commit a professional foul to deny the skipper from scoring in an empty net. But City were punished from the resulting free-kick as Bannan sent the ball in to the far post where Tom Lees rose high and headed home across the keeper.
Westwood then came to the rescue yet again for the Owls, making a decent save to deny Bakayoko who stretched to get a touch to a Jamie Allen free-kick.
Robins threw caution to the wind with three substitutions, sending on Matty Godden, Julien Dacosta and Ryan Giles, in a bid to salvage something from the game before Gervane Kastaneer was thrown on for the last eight minutes as City desperately pushed for an equaliser.
BEN WILSON: 7
Kicked and distributed the ball well in a fairly untroubled in the first half apart from having to catch a high ball. Got down low to make his first save to deny Josh Windass just before the hour. Saved a late one v one.
LEO OSTIGARD: 7.5
Organised and competitive at the back and a goal threat in the opposition box where he had two first half chances, one a header that was tipped away on the line by the keeper. Had a second half header cleared off the line. Took a card for the team when he committed a professional foul after Wilson kicked straight to Bannan.
KYLE McFADZEAN: 8
Organised and led from the middle of the back three in a solid first half. Continued to be strong after the break.
DOM HYAM: 7
Mr Consistent read the game well as usual and defended pretty well overall.
FANKATY DABO: 6.5
Enjoyed plenty of space on the right from where he sent in some decent balls into the box.
BEN SHEAF: 7
Did the dirty job in midfield and blocked brilliantly in the box to deny Josh Windass opening the scoring midway through the first half. Continued to get his foot in and even had a crack at goal after the break in a decent shift from the defensive midfielder.
JAMIE ALLEN: 7
Sat deeper than usual as he filled in the Liam Kelly role alongside Sheaf, providing bags of energy and passing the ball well. Nothing fancy but efficient.
SAM McCALLUM: 6.5
Defended well and made good use of his long throws but didn’t venture forward much in the first half. Enjoyed a good battle with his opposite number Kadeem Harris.
CALLUM O’HARE: 6.5
Found the gaps well in the final third and tracked back well to held defend, albeit committing a number of fouls as well as being on the receiving end of a fair few as well on a frustrating afternoon at times.
MAX BIAMOU: 7
Strong and hungry, the Frenchman tested Westwood early on with a low shot to the near post and won plenty of his headers in an impressive return to the starting line-up.
TYLER WALKER: 5.5
Held up the ball well with his back to goal in another game for the striker who continued to work hard and show good movement but never got a sniff of the goal in the opening 40 minutes before being forced off injured before the break with what looked like a calf strain.
AMADOU BAKAYOKO (41 mins, for Walker): 6
Added energy and legs when he went on as a straight replacement for the injured Walker. Denied by Westwood when he got a touch to a Jamie Allen free-kick. Should have done better for the goal, allowing Tom Lees to head home.
JULIEN DACOSTA (72 mins, for Dabo): 6
Added pace and energy on the right as City chased the game.
MATTY GODDEN (72 mins, for Biamou): 5.5
Got into good positions and the one chance that did fall to him went over the bar.
RYAN GILES (72 mins, for Ostigard): 6
Helped stretch the Owls with some decent attacking play down the left.
GERVANE KASTANEER (83 mins, for Sheaf): 5
Added fresh legs as City desperately pushed for a late equaliser.
Subs (not used): Lee Camp (GK), Josh Pask, Jordan Shipley, Will Bapaga.
SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY (3-5-2): Keiren Westwood; Liam Palmer, Tom Lees, Chey Dunckley; Kadeem Harris, Joey Pelipessy, Barry Bannan (82 mins, for Joost van Aken), Liam Shaw (63 mins, for Jordan Rhodes), Adam Reach; Callum Paterson, Josh Windass.
Subs (not used): Joe Wildsmith (GK), Mett Penney, Fisayo Dele-Bashiru, Osaze Urhoghide, Izzy Brown, Alex Hunt, Elias Kachunga.
WHAT THE MANAGERS SAID
“It’s been a really difficult day. We are disappointed, but certainly not with what we’ve done over the past nine games.
“We didn’t do enough this afternoon and we weren’t ruthless enough in front of goal. We created decent opportunities and we had the ball in decent areas, but we didn’t make the most of it.
“I’m not going to make any excuses, but the pitch was horrific. The pitch meant that we couldn’t get any momentum.
“Sheffield Wednesday were fighting and hadn’t won since Tony came in. It’s a disappointment for us because we couldn’t keep our run going.
“We showed a lot of intent to try and score a goal, but that was difficult because of the pitch.
“No heads should be hanging. The lads did fantastically well and gave me everything that they had.
“Energy-wise, I thought we were not too bad either. We have to move on from today really quickly.”
“The win was a long time coming. We showed a lot of resilience today and we needed the three points.
“We were missing quite a few players, but the players who stepped in played their part. They’re a good group of lads.
“I am very pleased for this football club and for the supporters. We need to get results and we need clean sheets to get those results.
“The boys gave so much effort and commitment today. It’s a great result for us. We have to make Hillsborough more of a fortress when other teams come here to play.
“You have to give Coventry a lot of credit today. Their keeper made a couple of good saves and Josh Windass should have really had a hat-trick.
“Things are looking up. I haven’t had one week of training so far. We’ll be doing plenty of work on keeping clean sheets and being dangerous on the break in the coming weeks and months.
“Fingers crossed that we can take confidence from this win to Blackburn on Boxing Day.”
Stoke City (St Andrew’s) Boxing Day (3pm).