Lewis Hancock reports from Hillsborough.
City suffered defeat in their first game back in the Sky Bet Championship, going down 2-0 to Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough.
Tom Lees opened the scoring for the hosts on the hour mark with a towering header from an unmarked position.
Wednesday added their second on the counter-attack when Lewis McGugan tapped in from Ross Wallace’s deep cross 19 minutes from time.
Steve Cotterill handed debuts to two of his summer additions, with Jonathan Kodjia partnering captain Aaron Wilbraham in attack and Ryan Fredericks slotting in at right wing-back.
After signing on loan from Aston Villa just 24 hours before the game, Callum Robinson was named on the bench alongside the returning Kieran Agard (knee) and Scott Wagstaff (hamstring).
City started the brighter of the two teams, looking calm and assured in possession with slick passing.
Despite the press of Wednesday’s frontline, City’s back three remained patient until an opportunity arose to pass into a pocket of space, which Luke Freeman seemed to be accommodating on a regular basis.
League One’s top assist maker last season appeared at ease with the ball at his feet and created the game’s first half-chance.
Freeman made a defence-splitting pass down the left flank to Joe Bryan, whose low cross towards Kodjia was deflected harmlessly into the arms of Keiren Westwood.
Wednesday replied with one of their own shortly after. Sam Hutchinson was given time to pick a pass into the feet of Atdhe Nuhiu and the striker’s deft flick fell into the path of the onrushing Marco Matias, but the wide man’s heavy touch was collected by Frank Fielding.
The Owls were looking dangerous on the attack with Wallace and Nuhiu a handful for City’s left side of defence.
However, City were threatening on the break themselves and Freeman continued to cause problems with his trickery. The former Stevenage man skipped past the hosts’ midfield, dummied to shoot before sending a right-footed daisy-cutter just wide of Westwood’s near post.
The match was at a frantic pace with both sides aiming to get forward as quick as possible.
Wednesday were next to probe, using their familiar tactic of exploiting Wallace’s guile on the right. The winger cut inside to shoot on his favoured left, but Derrick Williams was on hand to block the goal-bound effort. However, the deflection landed kindly to Matias at the back post, but the former Portugal under-21 international skewed his shot horribly.
The end-to-end theme resumed with Wilbraham producing the first shot on target of the game. Bryan galloped past Jack Hunt and his deep cross reached the City skipper, who did well to take it down, steady himself to shoot but could only direct his attempt straight down Westwood’s throat.
The keeper set Wednesday on the counter immediately, releasing to Matias who broke past Luke Ayling to run at goal. Ayling recovered to reduce the angle and Matias’ shot squirmed across the face of goal to safety.
Nuihu carried on the threat holding off the challenge of Williams, before delivering towards Matias. Ayling intercepted the cross but Aden Flint inadvertently blocked his clearance into the path of Alex Lopez who fired into the Kop End.
City were forced into a first half change when Bryan limped off to be replaced by Wes Burns. It meant a switch of flank for Fredericks, who adapted to his new role instantly creating an opportunity for Kodjia.
The Frenchman received the ball 25 yards from goal and cruised by McGugan, unleashing a powerful shot narrowly over.
Wednesday stepped up a gear after the break, pressing City high up the pitch.
Wallace curled a free-kick direct at Fielding, and Hunt followed up with a driving run into the area with Flint having to concede a corner with a well-timed block.
Their persistence paid off as they went ahead in the 60th minute through Lees. Lopez inswinging corner found the centre-back who nodded home unmarked from eight-yards.
Cotterill introduced Robinson to the fray nine minutes later in search of an equaliser. And they almost found one.
Freeman’s corner was met by the head of Burns, who was unfortunate to see McGugan clear off the line on the back stick.
However, Wednesday went straight on the attack to add their second of the match.
Full-back Jeremy Helan travelled 40 yards from his own half before making a sweeping pass to the left for Wallace to collect. The former Burnley player composed himself and sent a looping ball over the City defence for McGugan to tap into an unguarded net.
City searched in hope for a way back into the tie, and had a late penalty shout when Burns went down under pressure from Glenn Loovens but referee James Adcock waved away the appeals and the Owls secured the three points.
It could have been three goals at the death had Matias slotted inside the post, rather than wide, when free at the back stick.