Coventry City head into a tough looking festive period with a six point cushion between themselves and the bottom four.
The Sky Blues have taken 14 points from their last nine games but, sadly, couldn’t add to that tally at Sheffield Wednesday who started the day propping up the division and ended it lifting themselves off the bottom – courtesy of taking the full three points at Hillsborough.
A setpiece goal from Owls’ centre-half Tom Lees separated the two sides in a game in which City pushed to the final whistle in a bid to try to salvage a point.
Here are some of the big talking points from the match:
Form book out the window
Sheffield Wednesday went into the game on the back of a nine-game winless run, having lost their previous four Championship games.
The Sky Blues, in contrast, entered the fixture buoyed by an impressive eight-game unbeaten sequence of results that included three wins to help give them a bit of breathing space from the bottom three heading into the mid-term point.
We all know how the script goes in such circumstances, and, sadly, the players stuck to it, ensuring they brought an end to their hugely encouraging run as the Owls gave themselves a much-needed lifeline – the full three points lifting them off the bottom for the first time this season.
It was no coincidence that Tony Pulis’s first win since taking charge came on a day when former Sky Blues favourite Keiren Westwood was rather annoyingly restored to the starting line-up.
Making only his third appearance for the Owls this season, the 36-year-old proved to be the difference between the two sides, pulling off a handful of saves to thwart the club where he really made his name in the game.
His name on the teamsheet was an ominous sign to those who remember his undoubted quality during his time at Coventry and, with a huge personal point to make after a difficult period in his career when he fell out with previous manager Garry Monk, it was clear he was going to be the man to beat if City wanted to get anything from the game.
Although it looked like it was going to take something special to beat Westwood on the day, City didn’t particularly look that threatened at the other end.
In fact the only goal of the game came from City’s own doing, starting when Ben Wilson played a poor ball out from his area that was intercepted by Owls’ skipper Barry Bannan who was prevented from steering the loose ball into an unguarded net by Leo Ostigard, who took one for the team by committing a professional foul and earning himself a yellow card.
And it was from the resulting free-kick that Lees got himself ahead of Amadou Bakayoko, given defensive duties for the setpiece, and headed past the keeper who found himself caught between two stools, initially coming out and then retreating back to his line.
Poor record at Hillsborough
A quick look at the history books told us Coventry City haven’t done well at Hillsborough in the last 20-odd years, having managed only one win in the last eight trips to the South Yorkshire club.
City’s overall record there is six wins, 12 draws and 19 defeats in the league which didn’t bode well going into the game.
There’s no rhyme nor reason, of course, why the Sky Blues should have such a poor record there, just as, conversely, Wycombe have such a dreadful record against Coventry.
That’s just football, unfortunately, and Sheffield Wednesday would appear to be as much of a bogey side in their own back yards as the City are to the Chairboys at Adams Park.
Timely first step back
Matty Godden made a welcome return to the teamsheet and was reintroduced to the side for the last 18 or so minutes as City were desperately chasing the game, having conceded the only goal of the game five minutes earlier.
Unfortunately it wasn’t a dream come-back and the team’s talisman understandably lacked sharpness that meant the one chance that did fall to him ended up being lifted over the bar rather than hitting the target.
But the bigger picture is that the striker’s appearance came on a day when fellow front man Tyler Walker limped off before the break with a calf strain.
Mark Robins was clearly desperate to get Godden on the pitch but dare not risk putting him on so early in the game, knowing the likelihood was that it would be too much of an ask for the player who has sat out the previous nine with a foot injury.
Big misses but Allen does a job
We always knew taking Liam Kelly out of the side was a huge blow but to lose Gus Hamer as well was arguably a step too far.
Fortunately Hamer will be back on Boxing Day, having served his one match ban at Hillsborough, where Jamie Allen was the man to fill in for the injured skipper.
Deployed in a deeper role than usual, Allen worked alongside Ben Sheaf and did an admirable job overall, covering plenty of ground and getting in the Owls’ faces to help limit the home side’s chances.
City have some really tough games coming up, not least away trips to Preston, Millwall and Reading in the league, and the in-form Hamer is the type of player who could make all the difference with his undoubted quality.