RAMBLE: Wednesday -v- AFC Bournemouth

RAMBLE: Wednesday -v- AFC Bournemouth

I love night matches. Winter is my favourite time of the year.

I don’t know why, but there’s something about getting the ‘big’ coat out for the first time that makes me smile. I also wear a pair of huge boots when, combined with the extra layers, gives the impression that the Michelin man is wandering down Penistone Road. I get cold for no-one.

Ah, the walk down Penistone Road. The chirp of friendly accents, expectations of defeat and the smell of chips and gravy. I’ll take this over your Etihad ‘Fan-Zone’ any day, thank you very much.

I waddle my way to my seat, exchange the usual pleasantries and we all decide that the weather has ‘dropped a bit’ before casting an eye over the Wednesday XI. Gray was forced into a least one change, with Joe Mattock out for six weeks it was Jeremy Helan at left-back while Giles Coke came in to midfield for Semedo.

Jeremy Helan is an interesting player. He arrived nearly two years ago as a left-back, was promoted to left-midfield owing to his terrific pace (and lack of defensive ability). He’s played in central midfield and I’m sure was played on the right-hand by Jones, perhaps as a sub, on at least one occasion. He does like to dive into tackles, a trait which probably cost us all three points against Millwall at the beginning of the season.

It would be interesting to see how he faired against Matt Ritchie, a player I’ve long since admired.

Coke, surprisingly, has been a reasonably regular figure in the Wednesday midfield and after his goal against Brighton I tweeted this:

He seemed to have taken my appraisal on board in some of our early fixtures, giving energetic displays and demonstrating that he is actually a capable footballer.

A shame then, that he was somewhat the passenger on Tuesday night.

THE MATCH

The Owls began this game in entirely the same fashion we’ve become accustomed to. Watford, Norwich and now Bournemouth are all very good sides and perhaps pressing for our own early advantage would leave too much space for energetic opponents to capitalise on. Gray seems happy to let his players sit behind the ball and look to frustrate our visitors in the early exchanges.

Wednesday started with a 4-2-3-1 with Coke and Lee sitting behind Maghoma, Drenthe and Maguire. The central figure, firstly Drenthe and then Maguire would look to the flick on off Nuhiu with little effect.

Much to ponder...

Much to ponder…

So we tried going down the flanks. A couple of times Palmer and Helan got in behind before either checking back or delivering a poor cross. Helan started brightly and kept Matt Ritchie in check.

Bournemouth looked threatening throughout and passed through Wednesday with consummate ease on several occasions. Kieran Lee lost his man all too frequently and Andrew Surman was allowed too much time and space by Giles Coke. Challenges on the edge of the Wednesday box were non-existent and Callum Wilson, the talisman of Bournemouth’s serious financial clout had a number of opportunities to put the visitors in front.

The atmosphere at Hillsborough was woeful and the football was offering little in the form of a tonic. Westwood saved for the cameras from Ritchie and Wednesday were generally lucky to make it to half time 0-0.

A few attacks of promise came the way of the Owls, Royston Drenthe had a couple of efforts from range to test Artur Boruc, one of which had seemingly spilled into the path of Adthe Nuhiu – the covering defender was able to clear long before the big Austrian could get near. Drenthe was our only source of inspiration and looked to get at Bournemouth whenever possible. Firstly through the middle, and then down the right, his ability to get past a player is something that we have missed since Jacques Maghoma reverted to the League 1 player he probably still is.

Callum Wilson looks to turn past Tom Lees

Callum Wilson looks to turn past Tom Lees

He flatters to deceive however, and his goal at Charlton aside, his efforts have come to little fruition. JJ Mk2, if you will.

This resemblance to Johnson was taken to the next level when he made a piss-poor tackle on a Bournemouth defender 50 yards from the Wednesday goal.

If this is your first taste of Tuesday night’s           action, you can probably tell where this is going…

HALF TIME – WEDNESDAY 0-0 AFC BOURNEMOUTH

The half-time diagnosis wasn’t pretty. Liam Palmer looks to be struggling for confidence, Kieran Lee had a woeful half and hasn’t carried his form over from last season, in my view. Coke was less Matthaus and more door-mat, Nuhiu’s flick-ons found nobody and it was bloody freezing. No atmosphere, no positivity and a second half script that was there for all to see.

Unchanged for the second period, Wednesday began with a slightly better intensity. Both sides could have taken the lead, firstly Wednesday as Tom Lees – unmarked – headed over from close range; then Wilson fired wide for Bournemouth when presented with a one-on-one opportunity.

Drenthe trudges off and leaves his team-mates in the soft and brown...

Drenthe trudges off and leaves his team-mates in the soft and brown…

Then came the inevitable Drenthe red. I’ll make no apologies for him, he was on a yellow and should not have dived in as he did. Whether he won the ball or not (I’m yet to see a replay at the time of writing) it was another shocking decision from the Dutchman that would go on to cost his team.

Bournemouth were easily the better side with eleven each and now took the piss out of us with ten.

If we closed down too quickly, they’d pass it round us, if we sat off we’d eventually succumb to their pressure and if we pushed a high line we’d get caught in behind.

As is the Wednesday way, we ended up doing all three.

Their first came from a Boruc throw as Wednesday pressed from a corner. He found Wilson on the left who evaded Maguire’s tackle, fed Surman with a square ball who checked back and curled it past Westwood from 20 yards.

The instrumental Wilson looks a talent.

The instrumental Wilson looks a talent.

Their second was a mistake from Jeremy Helan, who’s defensive line sat at least 5 yards behind that of his captain playing Wilson onside, his heavy touch played into the path of Ryan Fraser who fired past the onrushing Westwood.

Game over.

The final 20 minutes were a procession, on two fronts – some on the Kop were singing ‘is there a fire drill’ to fellow Wednesdayites, while on the pitch Bournemouth passed around Wednesday who were this point happy to keep it at 2-0.

FT – WEDNESDAY 0-2 AFC BOURNEMOUTH

Bournemouth look a terrific side and are now the third team to go top of the league with a victory at S6. Wednesday lacked any tenacity in midfield, any creativity from Kieran Lee, any desire to get at Bournemouth and as such created naff all.

Saturday against Rotherham will be embarrassing if we perform like this.

However, mid-table sides get mid-table results and we aren’t yet in a crisis. The performances are the greater worry. Our home form is something that simply has to be addressed or we’ll continue to plummet down the table. ‘A good away point’ needs to be supplemented by home performances worthy of our squad, which in part, has enough talent to aim for a top half finish.

Performances like this however will see home attendances fall again. I wouldn’t pay £26 or whatever joke of a price it is to watch that. I know it’s not as simple as ‘come on Milan, surely if you drop the prices a tenner you’ll make more through better attendances’ because people still won’t bother. I do think our pricing strategy is poor however and the promotion of two £10/£5 days seems to suggest that making those is fine, but don’t worry about the cold Tuesday nights.

This week will be a test of Stuart Gray’s widely praised man-management skills. Let’s hope he can instil some confidence in the boys before Saturday. Trust me, we’ll never hear the end of it he doesn’t.

Keep the faith.

OWLS ALIVE circliar yeller SPACE

Hugh
Moaning Correspondent
Owls Alive
E-mail: admin@owlsalive.com

Twitter: @hugh_wragg and @OwlsAlive


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