Jos Luhukay’s tactical tweaks failed to pay off as Sheffield Wednesday suffered a 2-1 defeat at Millwall.
Not only did the Owls manager change his formation at The Den, he also fielded no recognised centre forward. He deployed Ross Wallace as a false nine in a 3-4-3 formation.
His conservative team selection raised plenty of eyebrows and caused quite a stir among the Owls faithful on social media.
However, things looked pretty rosy in the capital at half-time as they led through Joey Pelupessy’s spectacular 42nd minute goal.
But mid-table Millwall came-from-behind to claim maximum points after goals by strikers Lee Gregory and Steve Morison.
Jordan Thorniley was also stretchered off on a night to forget for Wednesday.
In total, Luhukay made five changes from the team that drew 0-0 with Swansea in the FA Cup fifth round on Saturday.
There was no place for either Atdhe Nuhiu or Lucas in the starting eleven, with attacking midfielders Jack Stobbs and Ross Wallace asked to lead the attack. It was Stobbs’ first league start of the season.
Joe Wildsmith, Glenn Loovens, Jordan Thorniley and Pelupessy were also handed recalls. Cameron Dawson, Daniel Pudil, Jacob Butterfield and Adam Reach made way.
Wednesday flooded the midfield and looked to hit Millwall on the counter attack.
But the Lions, who named an unchanged team, came within a whisker of taking the lead in the seventh minute when Lee Gregory pulled the ball back to Ben Marshall and the former Owls loanee’s deflected right foot drive clipped Wildsmith’s left hand upright.
The Owls monopolised possession in the opening quarter of an hour but failed to fashion a single chance. Their build-up play was too slow and predictable.
Wallace cut an isolated figure in attack and Wednesday, without a raft of players through injury, looked short on confidence and quality in the final third.
It just was not sticking up front for the visitors and the Lions carried the greater attacking threat in the opening. Thorniley prevented Steve Morison from getting on the end of Jed Wallace’s dangerous centre to the back post before Jake Cooper drilled a long range shot high over the bar.
A lovely through ball by Morison sent Gregory through on goal in the 32nd minute but the forward fired wide from an acute angle.
That miss appeared to stir the Owls into life.
Morgan Fox fizzed in a low cross from the left which Millwall eventually dealt with following good play by the industrious Boyd.
Wallace tried his luck from long range but his 30 yard attempt flew over the top as Wednesday started to ask more questions of the Lions defensively.
And their pressure paid off in the 42nd minute when Pelupessy put them ahead. The Dutch midfielder, a January recruit from Heracles Almelo, latched on to Jack Hunt’s punt upfield, cut inside on to his favoured right foot before unleashing a fierce shot which gave Jordan Archer no chance. It was a piece of individual brilliance by Pelupessy.
Things could have got even better for the Owls before the interval but Shaun Hutchinson hacked away Jack Hunt’s centre, with Boyd lurking in the middle.
Whatever Millwall manager Neil Harris said to his team at half-time worked a treat. They started the second half on the front foot and Gregory restored parity in the 52nd minute, nodding home from inside the six yard box following a header back across the face of goal by Cooper.
It was a soft goal for Wednesday
The pendulum had swung the Lions’ way and Shaun Williams’ audacious lob from just inside the Owls’ half was easily gathered by Wildsmith.
Moments later, Shaun Williams squared to Gregory, who turned sharply on the edge of the area before seeing his shot turned behind for a corner by Wildsmith.
It was all Millwall and it took a vital clearance by Frederico Venancio to stop Gregory from grabbing his second of the contest after a fine break down the right flank by Morison.
The Lions completed the turnaround in the 63rd minute, with Morison turning in Wallace’s low delivery after the lively winger dispossessed Thorniley. Centre-half Thorniley hurt himself in the build-up to Millwall’s second goal. There was a lengthy stoppage in play as Thorniley received treatment and he was given warm applause from all four sides of the ground when he was taken off on a stretcher and replaced by Joao.
Millwall’s tails were up and Gregory wasted a glorious opportunity to score a third after racing on to Wallace’s neat pass.
To compound Wednesday’s misery, Reach was penalised for diving after going down in the box under a challenge from Saville.
The Owls kept battling and substitute Nuhiu’s delightful flick freed Boyd down the left wing and his cut back was volleyed agonisingly off target by Stobbs.
Thirteen minutes were added on in added on time and Joao went close to levelling things up, nodding Hunt’s cross inches wide. It was as close as Wednesday came to bagging a second as Millwall held on to extend their unbeaten home run to 11 matches.
Millwall: Archer; Romeo, Hutchinson, Cooper, Meredith; Wallace, Williams, Saville, Marshall (Onyedinma 88); Morison, Gregory (Shackell 90). Substitutes: Martin, McLaughlin, Tunnicliffe, Cahill, Elliott.
Owls: Wildsmith; Venancio, Loovens, Thorniley (Joao 72); Hunt, Pelupessy, Jones (Reach 65), Boyd, Fox; Stobbs, Wallace (Nuhiu 79). Substitutes: Dawson, Butterfield, Pudil, Clare.
Referee: Peter Bankes (Merseyside)
Star man: Jack Hunt