VIDEO: Match highlights of Sheffield Wednesday 1 Queens Park Rangers 1
Champions, according to Carlos Carvalhal, are usually those who react quickly after a disappointment.
While it is highly unlikely Carvalhal’s Owls side will lift the Championship title come the end of the season, they are well equipped to secure a top-six finish.
At a bitterly cold Hillsborough last night, Wednesday underlined their spirit and battling qualities, grinding out a draw against Queens Park Rangers.
It was, though, a mixed evening for Atdhe Nuhiu. The giant striker has always divided opinions on the terraces since joining the club in July 2013. He is a tireless worker but receives criticism for his goal record.
Nuhiu could have put Wednesday ahead two minutes after half time only to fluff his lines from the penalty spot.
To make matters worse, QPR broke the deadlock through midfielder Daniel Tozser, who lashed home from just outside the penalty area.
But Nuhiu made amends in the 63rd minute, grabbing his fifth goal of the season, to ensure Wednesday stretched their undefeated home run to 16 in all competitions. It is a mightily impressive record and their best at Hillsborough since the 1996/97 season when they finished seventh in the top-flight.
There was a controversial moment in the closing stages as Wednesday pressed hard for a late winner when Kieran Lee went down under Grant Hall’s challenge. Wednesday’s fans and players appealed vehemently for another penalty but fourth official Graham Salisbury, who replaced the injured Andy Davies, waved play on. His decision incensed the crowd and all of Carvalhal’s backroom staff.
Wednesday made one enforced change, bringing in Republic of Ireland international Aiden McGeady for the suspended Fernando Forestieri. Top-scorer Forestieri was serving a one-match ban following his sending off against Preston.
McGeady missed the trip to Lancashire due to a dead leg. It was the speedy winger’s first home start since arriving on loan from Everton.
It was Wednesday who made all the early running and Lee volleyed over Jack Hunt’s teasing centre before Ross Wallace unleashed a rasping left foot shot which flew agonisingly off target after bamboozling Nasser El Khayati out wide.
QPR lined up in a 4-4-1-1 formation, looking to stifle and frustrate the hosts. They showed little ambition, choosing to sit deep and play on the counter attack.
Jimmy Flyod Hasselbaink’s side were nearly undone after lovely move involving McGeady, Hooper and Daniel Pudil but Nuhiu, on the stretch, just failed to turn in the left-back’s low delivery.
The Owls couldn’t make their early pressure count and the visitors’ conservative tactics took some of the sting out of the contest.
Much of their enterprising play stemmed from McGeady. His neat close control and trickery caused the R’s stubborn defence one or two problems.
A great crossfield pass by McGeady released Nuhiu just after the half hour mark and the big striker’s fierce effort from an acute angle was expertly kept out by Alex Smithies.
Despite bossing possession, Wednesday’s end product in the final third repeatedly let them down in a one-sided half.
QPR, relegated from the Premier League last term, offered precious little as an attacking unit themselves. Pre-match, Hasselbaink, under pressure having won just two out of his previous 14 games in charge, had talked about the London club playing on the front foot and with freedom. His words fell on deaf ears.
Two minutes after the re-start, Carlos Carvalhal’s charges were awarded a penalty after R’s skipper Nedum Onuoha was adjudged to have brought down Hooper. Nuhiu’s composure deserted him from 12 yards as Smithies dived to his left to make a routine stop.
QPR could have also been given a spot-kick in the 53rd minute when Hunt appeared to clip El Khayati but the forward stayed on his feet and his cross to the back post evaded everyone.
After Tozser put them the R’s ahead following a sloppy clearance by Vincent Sasso, Wednesday rallied and it took some desperate last ditch defending by Grant Hall to prevent Hooper from turning in substitute Lucas Joao’s cross.
But the Owls are one of the highest-scoring teams in the division for a reason and Nuhiu brought up their half century in style, rising highest to nod in Pudil’s well-flighted delivery. As he celebrated in front of the Kop, the relief was etched all over Nuhiu’s face.
Things started to open up and Sasso had to be alert to foil Conor Washington as the striker broke clear.
In an entertaining finish, Matt Phillips drilled a fierce shot off target after a quick break by QPR before Lee side-footed inches wide when well-placed.
Wednesday continued to pile on the pressure after Lee’s big penalty shout and Joao’s powerful header forced Smithies into action.
Ultimately, it wasn’t to be as Carvalhal’s troops missed an opportunity to put daylight between themselves and the chasing pack.
Wednesday: Westwood; Hunt, Lees, Sasso, Pudil; Wallace, Bannan, Lee, McGeady (Joao 62); Nuhiu, Hooper. Substitutes: Price, Bennett, Loovens, Helan, McGugan, Lopez.
QPR: Smithies; Hall, Onuoha, Angella, Perch; Phillips, Henry, Luongo, Tozser; El Khayati (Mackie 79), Washington (Polter 73). Substitutes: Ingram, Chery, Hoilett, Diakite, Petrasso.
Referee: Andy Davies (Hampshire)