Owls verdict: Sheffield Wednesday 0 Nottingham Forest 1

The Owls fall behind
The Owls fall behind

All good runs eventually come to an end.

Wednesday boss Stuart Gray had every right to be proud of his team’s performance in front of the Sky cameras after watching them fall to a cruel first defeat of the season.

The team, as they have done all season, gave Gray everything, but you don’t always get what you deserve in sport.

The Owls dominated the second half but could not break down Forest’s well-organised defence, which was expertly marshalled by Michael Mancienne. When Gray’s team occasionally found a way past Mancienne and company, they found Newcastle-United-bound goalkeeper Karl Darlow in inspired form.

Only one side looked like scoring after the break. Wednesday, attacking the Kop end, piled on the pressure and their display warranted at least a draw.

But Forest were resilient and dug deep to grind out the three points, demonstrating the battling qualities which will be required in a promotion push.

Owls midfielder Giles Coke said: “I thought we played really well and were a bit unfortunate not to get something out of the game against a top, top side.

“I don’t think Forest created that many chances but top teams can create one chance and score.

“We are a good side and showed it on Saturday. We put them under pressure and they were dropping off because they were tired. It was unfortunate we didn’t get the goal but fair play to Forest and credit to them for the victory.

“We can take a lot of confidence from the way we played. Everyone can see that we are a good side and have got good players. We are playing good football and have a good manager. We can take positives, have the international break and come back and start again.”

In terms of spending power and resources, Wednesday and Forest are worlds apart. Forest invested heavily over the summer, recruiting players of the calibre of Britt Assombalonga and former Owls favourite Michail Antonio.

Antonio’s departure helped Gray reshape his squad and bring in Stevie May from St Johnstone, Hallam Hope on a youth loan from Everton and French defender Claude Dielna.

But, despite the financial gap between the two sides, Wednesday more than matched Forest. With a little more luck and composure in front of goal, Gray’s troops could have stretched their unbeaten run.

Ultimately, Antonio came back to haunt his old club, cliping a lovely ball into the box where the Henri Lansbury ghosted in unmarked to nod home the 37th-minute winner.

Antonio, making his first appearance at Hillsborough since completing his £1.5 million move to Forest, gave a good account of himself and was a telling outlet on the left wing.

Coke said: “It was a bit strange playing against Michail but players move on and these things happen.

“I had a little banter with Michail beforehand but when you cross that white line you both want to win the game and friendship goes out of the window.

“He’s always going to be a threat with his pace and strength.

“I thought Liam (Palmer) did well against him.

“Michail has gone to Forest and started well for them. He has been on fire so all credit to him and Forest.”

Owls fans booed Antonio’s every touch and he received a mixed reception when he was taken off with 11 minutes left.

Stuart Pearce, the Nottingham Forest manager, said: “He’s an outstanding lad. Michail wants to learn, improve and get better. I think he’s really enjoying his football here.

“He’s got a lot of friends at Sheffield Wednesday so I’m sure he will be pleased to come back here and get the victory.”

Skipper Glenn Loovens collected his fifth caution of the season in the first half, meaning the Dutch centre-back will sit out Wednesday’s trip to Bolton Wanderers after the two-week international break.

Coke said: “We wanted to win against Forest to go off on the international break on a real high. Unfortunately, we haven’t, but the morale is still very high.”

Gray’s side started on the front foot, threatening twice in the opening couple of minutes as Forest struggled to cope with Atdhe Nuhiu in the air. Wednesday’s direct style of play unsettled the league leaders and Darlow also had to be alert to keep out Jacques Maghoma’s fierce shot from distance.

But Forest gradually took control of the first half and were rewarded with Lansbury’s second goal in as many outings.

Stevie May came close on a couple of occasions to opening his Hillsborough account after the restart, with Darlow saving the Scotland Under-21 international’s header. He then saw his 61st-minute strike parried by the Forest shot-stopper.

“We are still figuring out what Stevie’s strengths and weaknesses are,” insisted Coke. “He’s a very young guy who has come down from Scotland and it’s different here.

“It’s more physical and a different type of football in the Championship so it does take time to adapt. But I’ve got no doubt he is a quality player so he will definitely do well for us.”

Forest chose to sit back and defend their lead. Gray put on extra forwards, handing a debut to Hope.

“I thought we had to go for it,” said Gray, who represented Forest during his playing days. “I got as many forwards on as I possibly could in the final 20 minutes. Sometimes you don’t get what you deserve. It shows how far we have came as a team, to be sat here disappointed.

“We made Forest look an average team at times.”

Alas, Wednesday lacked that cutting edge as Darlow denied Chris Maguire before tipping over Nuhiu’s left-foot piledriver in the dying minutes. From the resulting corner, a goalmouth scramble ensued and Nuhiu’s close-range effort was cleared off the line by Jack Hunt.

Gray said: “I’m proud of all the players. They were fantastic. We don’t fear anybody.”

If Wednesday carry on performing to this standard, it is not beyond the realms of possibility Gray’s charges could be involved in the play-off shake-up.

Viewpoint: Defeat brought Wednesday’s six-match unbeaten run to and end but Gray can be very satisified with eight points from five fixtures. The team have made a solid start in the Championship.