SHEFFIELD Wednesday improved on the Cup visit last year to Ewood Park where they went three down inside the first seven minutes and were outplayed.
But that was no consolation last night as just one early goal was enough to extend their run without a win to 10 games and leave them rooted in the bottom three. The game was almost the story of their season: they fell behind all too easily, hit back to put in a substantial performance and create chances, but ended up with nothing.
Blackburn defender Grant Hanley did the damage and the Owls had no-one of their own who was clinical in front of goal.
Wednesday caused Blackburn early problems with balls into the box and a second-minute corner by Paul Corry brought a chance that was headed over the bar by Gary Madine. But the Owls’ bad start of last season’s League Cup tie at Ewood was repeated as they fell behind.
In keeping with their fortunes this season it was an all too simple goal: midfield man David Dunn made a run to the byline on the left and crossed low to the edge of the six-yard box where centre half Hanley sidefooted home unmarked.
It was the 20-year-old defender’s fourth goal of his career.
Wednesday avoided going two down minutes later thanks to ex Sheffield United forward Colin Kazim-Richards smashing a far-post volley past the angle. Midfield powerhouse Dixon Etuhu missed with a header and the home team attacked with confidence and accurate passing, using the width of the pitch.
Missing the class and guile that the injured Jay Bothroyd provided against Leeds, no doubt Wednesday had hoped the pace of Jermaine Johnson - who took Bothroyd’s spot on the right - would compensate, along with that of Michail Antonio, but they found it hard to get them into the game. When an intended crossfield pass by Miguel Llera went out for a goalkick, Dave Jones turned away from the touchline in dismay.
Llera however had a sight of goal with a free kick from almost 28 yards after Johnson had at last made a long, incisive run and found Antonio, who was fouled. The centre back’s shot went past a post.
But the Owls should have been level in the 32nd minute. Antonio chested down a long ball and stole half a yard behind the Rovers defence. He had to take the chance early and poked a volley wide with the outside of his right foot.
This was during an improved spell for Wednesday: they went forward with menace, and Blackburn, perhaps not helped by the departure of Dunn, lost their earlier swagger. But the midfielder’s replacement, Ruben Rochina, who scored two in the cup against the Owls last year, exploded on the game with a strike from long distance.
The Owls had made a growing impact as the first half wore one and at half-time would not be downhearted. They also had a penalty shout for a challenge on Daniel Jones, but the referee was probably right to refuse it.
Wednesday often made Rovers look uncomfortable when the ball was played into their box and such a moment ought to have brought 47th minute equaliser.
Corry hit a free kick to the far post and Llera leaped to put a free header wide.
Owls fans seemed to sense there could be something in this game for them and upped their backing of the players.
Blackburn had to defend stoically against crosses and set pieces. Yet Wednesday had to be careful not to leave the back door open - as they almost did when Rovers broke and Rochina unleashed a powerful shot; it was half blocked by Jones and saved by Kirkland.
But again the Owls created an opportunity. Lewis Buxton received the ball from Antonio; the right back cut inside his marker and opted to shoot with his left foot rather than try to find a colleague and drove wide.
Johnson too had the confidence to try a shot, this one from outside the box: it fizzed along the ground into Paul Robinson’s hands.
Wednesday were more than matching Blackburn for initiative and possession.
For all the Owls’ perseverance and commitment, it was not easy to see where a goal was going to come from.
Dave Jones doubtless was looking to try something different in an effort to unlock the home defence when he took off Corry, and sent on Rodri in the 75th minute.
Blackburn had been allowed to do hardly anything going forward in the second half.
But a free kick by sub Morten Gamst Pedersen gave the Owls a close call. It was deflected and it deceived Kirkland but Llera was behind him to clear off the line.
Wednesday also sent on Chris O’Grady in the dying stages.
But Blackburn hung on and the Owls’ lean run goes on.
Jones had made three changes to the side that started against Leeds.
Martin Taylor returned as captain against his former club because Anthony Gardner was ruled out by a knee injury.
One-time England international Bothroyd, who had been a doubt owing to illness, was in the end sidelined by an ankle injury, so Jermaine Johnson came back in, and Madine took over from Chris O’Grady up front.
New signing Adam Davies was the substitute goalkeeper as Stephen Bywater and Arron Jameson were both unfit.
BLACKBURN: Robinson 7, Orr 7, Dann 7, Hanley 7, Givet 6, Lowe 6, Etuhu 6, Dunn 7 (Rochina 35), Olsson 6 (Pedersen 73), Kazim-Richards 6 (Murphy 83), Rhodes 6. Unused subs: Kean, Formica, Gomes, Rosado.
OWLS: Kirkland 7, Buxton 7, Taylor 7, Llera 7, Jones 7 (O’Grady 89), Semedo 7, J Johnson 6, Barkley 6, Corry 6
(Rodri 75), Antonio 6, Madine 6. Unused subs: Davies, Mattock, Maguire, Mayor, Pecnik.
Referee: Philip Gibbs (West Midlands).
Goal: Hanley (5)
Bookings: Llera, Kazim-Richards.