Sheffield Wednesday failed to score for the ninth Championship home game this season as they were today held to a goalless draw by Brighton and Hove Albion.
The Owls remain in 11th position but the result stretches their winless run to six matches and there were boos at the final whistle.
Gray, who cut a frustrated, angry figure following their 2-1 loss at Ipswich Town in midweek, left out Marnick Vermijl, Claude Dielna, Joe Mattock, Sam Hutchinson and Stevie May.
The Owls head coach has handed starts to Liam Palmer, Kamil Zayatte, Jose Semedo, Jacques Maghoma and Sergiu Bus.
It is just Zayatte’s sixth appearance of the season and his first since September 30. He replaces Claude Dielna at the heart of Wednesday’s rearguard.
Semedo is restored to midfield, having recovered from a toe infection, but skipper Glenn Loovens is ruled out because of an ankle injury he sustained in training earlier this week.
Chris Maguire sits out the final game of his two-match ban and recent signing Filipe Melo was left out of the match-day squad.
Former Owls loanee Leon Best leads Brighton’s attack while Chris O’Grady was named on the substitutes bench.
The visitors made the early running and Tom Lees almost sliced Sam Baldock’s cross into his own net inside the opening 30 seconds but Keiren Westwood snuffed out the danger.
Brighton offered another glimpse of their attacking quality in the eighth minute when Joao Teixeria raced on to a lovely through ball by Rohan Ince before firing wide. The Liverpool loanee’s strike would not have counted had it gone in as he was adjudged to have upended Palmer.
It took Wednesday’s much-changed side a fair amount of time to find their feet and Kieran Lee, chasing his second goal in as many matches, curled an effort inches wide after good build-up play by Lees and Will Keane.
Keane had the next sight at goal, heading over from close range after Lees lofted the ball back into the danger zone.
Semedo, booked for a late tackle on Teixeria, nodded over a Lewis McGugan delivery before David Stockdale produced a superb save to tip over Bus’s header as Wednesday continued to press for the opener.
Gray’s men nearly got caught napping at the other end as Rohan Ince narrowly drilled over a volley from an acute angle.
Wednesday suffered a big blow just after the half hour mark when Semedo was forced off with an injury, giving Hutchinson an opportunity to impress in the middle of the park.
It didn’t take long for Hutchinson to make his presence felt, bringing down Teixeria near the half-way line and referee Scott Duncan yellow carded him for his late challenge. It is the fourth time in nine appearances Hutchinson has been cautioned and the defensive midfielder was also sent off against Bolton Wanderers last month following two bookable offences.
On the stroke of half-time, Wednesday came close to opening the scoring but Keane was denied by the reflexes of Stockdale following a cracking centre by Lee.
There were a few boos from the home faithful following a dour, drab first period, prompting Gray to take off Keane and bring on Atdhe Nuhiu.
Things could have got even worse for Gray’s side just after the re-start as Teixeira’s found acres of space in the penalty area and it took a fine block from Hutchinson to prevent the attacking midfielder from testing Westwood.
Jacques Maghoma and McGugan fizzed shots narrowly off target as Wednesday started to ask more questions of Brighton’s backline.
The Owls survived a big scare in the 65th minute when Joe Bennett blazed over after linking well with Best.
But the hosts created the better goal-scoring opportunities, with Inigo Calderon preventing Lee from testing Stockdale following a flowing Owls move. Moments later, Lee turned sharply before seeing his fierce drive well saved by Stockdale’s legs.
With 16 minutes left, Brighton could have gone in front but Bruno, leaning back, lifted the ball over from ten yards out following a clever cut-back by Teixeira.
The Seagulls then had a penalty appeal turned down when Baldock was put clean through but he was blocked off by Jeremy Helan.
It took a wonderful last-ditch tackle by Brighton’s top-scorer Lewis Dunk to thwart Nuhiu in the closing stages.
Nuhiu inexplicably lashed a right foot shot over following a surging run from Helan to sum up their frustrations and lack of end product in the final third.
Wednesday: Westwood; Palmer, Lees, Zayatte, Helan; Lee, McGugan, Semedo, Maghoma; Bus, Keane. Substitutes: Kirkland, Mattock, Hutchinson, May, Nuhiu, Dielna, Vermijl.
Brighton: Stockdale; Calderon, Greer, Dunk, Bennett; Ince, Kayal; Bruno,Teixeira, Baldock; Best. Substitutes: Walton, Hughes, Halford, Stephens, LuaLua, Mackail-Smith, O’Grady.