A point for Derby County at Swansea City this afternoon will be enough for the Rams to stay up at Sheffield Wednesday’s expense, after the Owls drew 0-0 at home to Nottingham Forest in today’s lunchtime kick-off.
Wednesday were unable to capitalise after Lewis Grabban missed a penalty for Forest on the stroke of half-time, failing to find a precious winning goal despite clear-cut chances for Jordan Rhodes, Josh Windass and Adam Reach.
A small group of Wednesday supporters peered through the gates from a quadrant of the stadium and watched their team struggle to settle into the game.
Their 3-4-3 formation displayed plenty of pace and threat in the final third, but the Reds’ 4-1-4-1 formation helped them dictate the tempo and have much more of the ball, with a lack of a number 10 allowing Ryan Yates to link defence to the midfield.
Forest worked the ball well in the opening stages, and their first sight of goal came when Cafu shaped to shoot and saw an effort blocked from inside the area on nine minutes.
A slip allowed Wednesday to break, though, with Josh Windass driving forward with the ball with Callum Paterson and Kadeem Harris advancing either side of him. Windass chose to slip in the latter, who bent an effort straight at Samba from a dangerous shooting position.
Wednesday found themselves a very similar opportunity on 27 minutes, and it was the Windass/Harris partnership linking up well again. A smart turn by Windass resulted in him slipping the winger in behind Joe Worrall, but his defensive partner Scott McKenna produced a perfectly-timed challenge to deny him after cutting inside.
The Owls were showing plenty of endeavour and speed down the flanks, particularly through their wing-backs Adam Reach and Callum Paterson, who were keeping Yuri Ribeiro and Cyrus Christie busy. But through the middle is where Forest were asserting their dominance, and they produced a warning sign in the 35th minute when Ryan Yates was gifted plenty of space and time 25 yards from goal before firing harmlessly wide of Keiren Westwood’s goal.
The Reds came close to breaking the deadlock towards the end of the half, with a smart passing move leading to Cafu curling a delicious cross towards the back post to find an unmarked Filip Krovinovic. The Croatian side-dotted the ball back across goal, but was inches away from Lewis Grabban at the back post.
But the striker was presented with undoubtedly the best chance of the half right on the stroke of the interval, leaving those Wednesday fans watching from the corner of the ground and from afar with their hearts in their mouths.
A poor pass out to the left by Westwood was followed up by an ever sloppier pass by Adam Reach, whose mindless looping header back to his goalkeeper was too short. Anthony Knockaert took advantage, latching onto the ball, rounding Westwood before being taken down by the shot-stopper. Penalty given by referee Tim Robinson, despite the 36-year-old’s protests.
Westwood, though, was to go from zero to hero. Grabban stepped up and looked to fire into the bottom right-hand corner, but the goalkeeper got down low to his left and produced an excellent save to palm the ball behind for a corner.
It was to be the final kick of the half, though, as the half-time whistle blew immediately after, with Wednesday players left particularly relieved after being given a lifeline by their experienced number one.
Wednesday players came out for the second half looking a lot more up for the right. Kadeem Harris launched a quick break which resulted in Ryan Yates picking up the game’s yellow card after hacking the winger down. Harris was then slipped inside following a lovely reverse pass by Reach, but his cross was cut out by Joe Worrall, with the Owls beginning to knock on the door.
But another lapse in concentration from the hosts presented Grabban with another chance to break the deadlock. Julian Borner’s back pass sold Westwood short, with the Reds striker rounding the keeper but finding the side-netting from an acute angle. Another let-off for Wednesday, whose nerves were seemingly jangling.
Jamie Smith made his first change on 56 minutes, with seven-goal forward replacing Andre Green as the Owls searched desperately for that precious opening goal. Rhodes provided a focal point up top, and smart hold-up play led to Harris seeing an effort deflected wide for a corner, with the striker then heading straight at Brice Samba.
Chris Hughton was to make his first change on 66 minutes, with Cafu replaced by young winger Alex Mighten. This change came moments after the midfielder drove a shot high and wide from the edge of the area, after Knockaert charged inside and couldn’t force a shooting opportunity.
Time was running out for Wednesday, but better chances were being created as each minute ticked away. Josh Windass produced an excellent in-swinging cross from the right to find Rhodes in space at the back post, but the striker was unable to direct his header on target as he headed over the crossbar.
The Owls were getting closer. On 71 minutes, a long ball over the top saw Windass beat Scott McKenna for pace down the right-hand side, with the forward shooting powerfully and forcing Samba into a superb save at his front post.
The frustrated Grabban was replaced by Lyle Taylor soon after, with the visitors looking to work their way back into the game. They had an appeal for a penalty turned away when Mighten went down after wrestling with Paterson. Down the other end, excellent footwork by Barry Bannan saw the experienced Scotsman dance his way into the area unchallenged, feeding the ball to Liam Palmer who saw his goalbound effort blocked.
The game was becoming an end-to-end, stretched contest at this point. An overlapping run from Yuri Ribeiro saw the winger receive Krovinovic’s pass inside the area, and his cutback found James Garner who spun, slipped and skewed an effort wide from 10 yards on 78 minutes.
It was then Wednesday’s turn to have a throw of the dice once again. Windass was enjoying plenty of space on the right-hand side, and his cutback was met by Rhodes. Rhodes’ effort was blocked, and Reach then flashed an effort across goal with no takers.
Four minutes were added on at the end of normal time, with the Owls throwing men forward despite knowing that a Forest goal would send them down.
Harris was still proving to be a nuisance for the Reds, though, drawing a foul on the edge of the area and winning a free-kick in an inviting area three minutes into stoppage time. Harris took it, but his free-kick was placed well over the bar, and after Rhodes’ glancing header lacked any power, Samba claimed it with ease and the full-time whistle blew.
Wednesday players were left dejected on the Hillsborough turf, knowing that their fate could well be decided later this afternoon, despite carving out an array of chances over the course of the second half.
A point for Derby County against Swansea City would be enough for the Rams to avoid relegation and send Wednesday into League One, after a eight-year stay in the Championship.