MATCH RAMBLE: Wednesday -vs- Norwich

MATCH RAMBLE: Wednesday -vs- Norwich

It’s fair to say it’s been a tough month for Sheffield Wednesday to comprehend since the trouncing at the Etihad, 31 days previous to the visit of Norwich City at Hillsborough on Saturday.

A record of two defeats, no wins and just the three goals scored have seen the Owls slowly slip down the league ladder from the play-off positions to mid-table fodder, which is in no way made to sound subdued as a comfortable spot halfway up the table is something a vast majority of Wednesdayites would’ve gladly accepted in early August.

However, it has been a bit of a disappointment in recent weeks to see the momentum we had gathered slowly but surely evaporate and transcend into a sticky patch of form that hasn’t looked likely to improve due to our, quite frankly, dismal record in front of goal; especially on home territory at S6.

Can Taylor-Fletcher provide an answer to our front-line question?

Can Taylor-Fletcher provide an answer to our front-line question?

Stuart Gray has tirelessly attempted to address this ongoing issue by delving into the loan market to try and lure an out-of-favour Premier League striker through the Hillsborough doors but this effort came to little avail this week prior to the Canaries clash as a forward turned down the opportunity of a loan stint with the Owls in favour of competing for a starting berth at their parent club.

Plan B for Gray was journeyman Gary Taylor-Fletcher, on loan from Leicester. The news of this announcement hardly gave Owls on social networks the greatest bit of hope as the 33-year old is hardly the most prolific of forwards and hit fitness levels are perhaps debatable but the Wednesday faithful did know for sure they were getting an honest hard-working player who has experience at both ends of the division. It’s arguable, however, whether or not it’s experience we need in the final third at this moment in time – I’m sure most will argue it’s quality in the eighteen-yard box that we’re currently crying out for. Having said that, while ever he wears a blue and white shirt I’ll be supporting him all the way, after all in Stuart we trust, right?

The former Blackpool favourite was named on the bench for the hosting of promotion-chasing Norwich City, who had failed to win their last five but did boast the record of scoring twice as many goals as us so far this season in the league.

In search of scoring our fourth home goal of the season, we made a bright start in the opening ten-minutes with our full-backs getting forward on a regular basis and plenty of balls going into the box for Stevie May and Atdhe Nuhiu.

It was the former who probably had our most clear cut chance of the opening period with a header from a Dielna cross that went wide of John Ruddy’s goal. The Scotsman was provided with the perfect service on that occasion and possibly could’ve done better with the attempt, but we were creating chances for our forwards at least.

One man who I was pleased to see with a starting spot in the Owls’ XI was Jeremy Helan, who I believe poses a potent threat to opposition full-backs with his raw pace and direct attitude with the ball. In the opening half he had a half chance to tee the ball up for Nuhiu or most favourably May as the Frenchman’s sheer pace took him past the desperate challenge of Steven Whittaker before seeing the ball agonisingly roll away from him as the ex-Manchester City man seemed to ultimately trip over his own feet in inadvertent fashion.

Grabban forces a good save from MOTM Westwood

Grabban forces a good save from MOTM Westwood

Our East Anglian visitors came close themselves after Wednesday had initially cleared the ball away from a high free-kick into the box before defender Michael Turner hooked the ball over the Owls’ backline to Lewis Grabban who failed to beat Keiren Westwood from close range with the latter spreading himself to deflect the ball away in unorthodox fashion with his face. It was to bethe first of a string of eye-catching saves from the Irish shot stopper, who ended up being the best player on the pitch and again saving SG’s men from defeat.

A particularly less than exhilarating first 45 minutes came to a close with both sides cancelling each other out and proving why their respective defences are amongst the most impressive in the division.

HALF TIME – WEDNESDAY 0-0 NORWICH CITY

The yellows of Norwich certainly demonstrated their promotion credentials in the second period as the Wednesday goal was at times living a very charmed life with Neil Adams’ men playing with a lot more intent than their first-half showing.

Poor substitutions from Gray?

Poor substitutions from Gray?

Skipper Russell Martin saw his header go wide of Westwood’s goal from six-yards following a perfectly whipped free-kick from Gary O’Neil.

Then came Stuart Gray’s double substitution that most definitely got those of a blue and white persuasion in the crowd talking. I’m a big fan of Gray’s usually positive changes where he usually throws on one or two more extra forwards to go on and win a game in the final 15-20 minutes. However, on this occasion the gaffer opted to bring off Chris Maguire and Nuhiu for Jacques Maghoma and debutant Taylor-Fletcher.

For me Nuhiu was causing the Canaries’ rear-guard some real problems at times and by losing our main physical target and bringing on someone at least four inches smaller than the Norwich centre-backs you couldn’t help but feel we were going to pose a lot less of an attacking threat than we were already.

Soon after, Westwood was again the man receiving the plaudits as another exquisite O’Neil set-piece was met this time by Cameron Jerome who glanced a header that was destined for the far corner but was superbly denied by the Wednesday number one who clawed the ball round the post and out for a corner – Jerome was even wheeling away to celebrate once he’d made contact with the ball he was that certain it was going to beat the former Coventry ‘keeper!

You've got it Kieren - ♫ Ireland's #1 ♫

You’ve got it Kieren – ♫ Ireland’s #1 ♫

The Keiran Westwood master class continued as substitute Nathan Redmond pinged a right-footed shot from the left-hand side that was certain to nestle in the bottom corner of the net but again the Owls’ man of the match came up with the goods with a save that I personally thought was best of the lot; I was right behind Redmond on the North Stand when he hit that and for all the world I was expecting the net to bulge and 3,000 Canaries to be sent to delirium.

Another point-blank stop to deny Jerome meant Keiren had a healthy list of candidates for save of the season and reaffirm the view that we have the best goalkeeper outside of the Premier League.

With us threatening little at the other end and frustratingly not throwing our two centre-backs forward for stoppage time throw-ins and free-kicks I think the majority of Owls’ fans would’ve settled for a point against a side who, without a shadow of doubt in my mind, will be right up there come May.

"Damn you, Westwood!"

“Damn you, Westwood!”

FULL TIME – WEDNESDAY 0-0 NORWICH CITY

It was hardly electric stuff from ourselves but at least we could come away from the game thankful of having a ‘keeper of the quality of Keiren Westwood. Back-to-back clean sheets is nothing to be ashamed of but I just like the rest of us hope we can get our strikers out of this barren-run in front of goal we’ve been experiencing and to also try and get the rest of the team to chip in with a goal or two as well.

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Jonathan
Owls Alive
E-mail: admin@owlsalive.com

Twitter: @JonOwlzz and @OwlsAlive


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