CARDIFF – 10 YEARS ON: Games that shaped the season for Wednesday
The tenth anniversary of that wonderful day in Cardiff is fast approaching and here at OwlsAlive we’re aiming to bring some nostalgia. The final was a journey, it may have all hinged on one game but there were 46 beforehand that brought the Owls to the play off dance.
So we’re taking a trip down memory lane and pointing out crucial games in our journey to the Welsh capital in 2005.
The summer of 2004 was one of massive change at Hillsborough. A 2003/04 season that had started with promise faded away and the Owls ended up having the second worst season in their long and proud history.
Chris Turner had kept his job but he rung the changes – out went Robbie Mustoe, Mark Robins, Brian Barry-Murphy, Dean Smith, Paul Smith, Terry Cooke, Alan Quinn, Leigh Bromby and Chris Stringer.
The incomers were for a time known as Turner’s Ten – Paul Heckingbottom, David Lucas, Patrick Collins, Guy Branston, Jon-Paul McGovern, Glenn Whelan, Lee Peacock, Steven MacLean, a Scottish veteran by the name of Lee Bullen and the marquee signing – experienced midfielder Chris Marsden …another fellow of the same name also made his loan from Middlesbrough permanent – Chris Brunt.
CT was confident that this squad had the goods to get promoted but it didn’t start well…
7th August 2004, Sheffield Wednesday 0-3 Colchester United – Hillsborough – Att: 24,138
24,000 packed into Hillsborough and the optimism was high but after a game where the Owls huffed and puffed but generally failed to trouble the Colchester goal, the Essex side hit Wednesday with not one, not two but three late sucker punches as Craig Fagan, Sam Stockley and Joe Keith left the Owls shell-shocked and bottom of the table after the first game.
A difficult start for Turner’s second term
Lucas, Bullen, Heckingbottom, Lee (Branston 59), Collins, McGovern, Brunt, Marsden, McMahon (Hamshaw 66), MacLean, Proudlock (Peacock 60)
UNUSED SUBS – Tidman,Ndumbu-Nsungu
The summer of 2004 also saw the introduction of the controversial Owls Away Card and for a time away followings were down on their usual numbers – Wednesday recovered from the depressing opening display by recording wins at Blackpool and Torquay United; although plenty of defensive frailties were on display in both games before Steven MacLean’s first Hillsborough goal saw the Owls defeat Huddersfield Town.
The frailties showed up again as Guy Branston was sent off and the Owls shipped four at Tranmere before three successive draws against Oldham, Luton and Walsall.
18th September 2004, Sheffield Wednesday 0-1 AFC Bournemouth, Hillsborough – Att: 19,203
An unremarkable game which saw the deadlock broken by John Spicer was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Dave Allen as Chris Turner was given his P45 hours after the game. Wednesday had been winless in five and were 14th in the League One table after this loss, already thirteen points behind table topping Luton Town.
Enter an enigmatic Scotsman, stage left…
Lucas, Bullen, Collins, Wood, Branston, McGovern, Smith (Brunt 71), Marsden, Whelan, Peacock, MacLean (Ndumbu-Nsungu 66)
UNUSED SUBS – Poulter, Carr, Proudlock
Mark Smith took charge as the Owls dropped out of the League Cup at Highfield Road but Dave Allen didn’t waste much time seeking out a replacement – Plymouth Argyle had romped to the Division Two title in 2003/04 and their manager at the time Paul Sturrock had become available after being harshly dismissed at Premier League Southampton. Allen wasted no time in getting Paul Sturrock and his assistants Kevin Summerfield and John Blackley to S6 and the impact was immediate…
25th September 2004 – Wrexham 0-3 Sheffield Wednesday, The Racecourse Ground – Att: 5,688
Sturrock had already moved to strengthen a weak defence by signing Plymouth’s Hasney Aljofree on loan and the Owls had few problems in recording their first win in over a month at struggling Wrexham – MacLean, Brunt and Proudlock saw the Wednesday win in North Wales and in a rarity for Owls managers – Paul Sturrock was victorious in his first game in charge.
Macca celebrates one from later that season!
Lucas, Bullen, Collins, Aljofree, Smith, McGovern (Greenwood 84), Brunt, Marsden, McMahon, Proudlock, MacLean (Shaw 77)
UNUSED SUBS – Poulter, Evans, Ndumbu-Nsungu
The start of the Sturrock era wasn’t without teething problems, the Owls were dumped out of the LDV Vans Trophy by League Two Chester City and his first Hillsborough game didn’t go to plan as Izale Macleod snatched a late equaliser for the MK Dons.
Adam Proudlock scored the winner in a South Yorkshire derby against Barnsley before a draw at Peterborough; a Tidman stinker and a poor display led to the Owls losing 3-1 at Bradford, before…
27th October 2004 – Swindon Town 3-2 Sheffield Wednesday, The County Ground – Att: 6,972
If ever there’s been one trait we’ve come to know Wednesday for over the years, it’s been throwing away good situations, Wednesday had been coasting at 2-0 with 15 minutes left to play before a triple whammy by Swindon saw the Owls head away from Wiltshire frustrated and pointless and it left Paul Sturrock knowing one or two of his squad weren’t up to the challenge.
Tidman, Bullen, Heckingbottom, Collins, Wood, McGovern, McMahon, Whelan, Marsden, Proudlock, MacLean
UNUSED SUBS – Poulter, Greenwood, Brunt, Hamshaw, Talbot
A Sammy Clingan stunner denied Wednesday victory over Chesterfield but David Lucas’ return after injury in goal led to wins over Stockport County and Hartlepool as the Wednesday train started to gather momentum although a weakened Wednesday side were dumped out of the FA Cup in convincing fashion at Swindon Town.
27th November 2004 – Bristol City 1-4 Sheffield Wednesday,Ashton Gate, Att – 14,852
One player who had made Wednesday fans sit up and notice under Sturrock was Adam Proudlock. Under Turner, he had looked overweight, lazy and lackadaisical; Sturrock in the early days at least managed to goad some semblance of form out of the former Wolverhampton striker and he was on fire here turning in a brace as the Owls produced a stunning performance to romp home at Ashton Gate.
Proudlock with the brace at Ashton Gate
Chris Brunt also scored one of his trademark classy goals as the Owls sent their fans home from the West Country extremely happy.
Lucas, Bullen, Heckingbottom, Collins, Branston, McGovern, Brunt, Whelan, McMahon (Hamshaw 68), MacLean, Proudlock (Ndumbu-Nsungu 81)
UNUSED SUBS – Tidman, Lee, Wood
Joey O’Brien was signed on loan and made his debut in a loss at Hull where Guy Branston in particular looked inept before the Owls conspired to lose 2-1 at home to ten man Brentford. Goals were lacking and Paul Sturrock turned to former club Southampton to secure the loan signing of an unknown Trinidadian utility player called Kenwyne Jones. His debut was against another South Yorkshire club who were going fairly well at the time.
19th December 2004, Doncaster Rovers 0-4 Sheffield Wednesday, Belle Vue, Att: 10,131
It may have been named Earth Stadium at the time but being from Doncaster, Rovers’ ground was always known as Belle Vue to me and although it may not mean much to most Wednesday fans, seeing my team play against a team who had been a non-league side when the Owls dropped out of the Premier League meant something to me, Rovers fans had suddenly appeared all over Doncaster and in the run up to the game, they were full of confidence.
I was calm and said to all the Rovers fans we’ll let our football do the talking and for once Wednesday didn’t disappoint as they had few problems in overcoming Doncaster Rovers – the Rovers defence struggled to contain Kenwyne Jones and had no answer to Steven MacLean as he netted a hat-trick, only one Wednesday player has netted a hat-trick since (Neil Mellor for those wondering) and the Owls just simply took the mick as Wednesday turned on the style.
Donny proved to be accommodating hosts
Lucas, Bullen, Heckingbottom, Wood, Lee, McGovern, Hamshaw (Brunt 73), O’Brien, Whelan, MacLean (Ndumbu-Nsungu 87), Jones (Peacock 70)
UNUSED SUBS – Poulter, Greenwood
The 25th anniversary of the Boxing Day massacre saw the Owls triumph over Walsall. After being 15th at the end of October, the Owls had climbed into 8th.
28th December 2004, Port Vale 0-2 Sheffield Wednesday, Vale Park, Att – 8,671
Another goal for Kenwyne
Wednesday overtook the Hamil Road end as they took a huge following to Burslem, long range strikes from Jon-Paul McGovern and Kenwyne Jones secured the win and the Owls made their first appearance in the top six since August.
Lucas, Bullen, Heckingbottom, Wood, Lee, McGovern, Hamshaw (Brunt 76), O’Brien, Whelan, MacLean, Jones (Talbot 82)
UNUSED SUBS – Poulter, Branston, Greenwood
The Doncaster win was the start of a good run of form for Wednesday, after the Vale win, the Owls gained a hard-earned point at table topping Luton Town before defeating Wrexham and Swindon Town at Hillsborough, Paul Sturrock’s men were sitting 4th in the table as they took the long journey to Dorset to take on 7th placed AFC Bournemouth
15th January 2005, AFC Bournemouth 1-1 Sheffield Wednesday, Dean Court, Att – 8,847
This was the only game in Kenwyne Jones’ loan spell that he failed to find the net but in hindsight this was perhaps the most crucial point of the season as AFC Bournemouth agonisingly missed the playoffs by a solitary point, Guylain Ndumbu-Nsungu AKA Dave and the hapless Dane Kim Olsen had departed, with Adam Proudlock out with a long term injury, Paul Sturrock moved to beef up his attacking options by signing James Quinn from Willem II in Holland.
Mr Dependable with the crucial goal at Dean Court
It wasn’t a striker who proved to be the hero here though as left-back Paul Heckingbottom nodded in a corner deep in injury time to cancel out Garreth O’Connor’s opener and net Wednesday a vital point.
Lucas, Bullen, Heckingbottom, Lee, Wood (Talbot 89), McGovern, Brunt, O’Brien (Quinn 78),Whelan, MacLean, Jones
UNUSED SUBS – Poulter, Armstrong, Collins
Steven MacLean’s long ranger proved enough to secure a win in a painfully dull game against Port Vale before the old frailties showed up at the MK Dons as yet again the Dons would deny the Owls victory through a late equaliser, Chris Marsden had missed a fair chunk of the season through injury and the club captain and Wednesday fan announced his retirement. Lee Bullen would take over the reins at captain.
A goalless draw at Barnsley followed before the Owls would have their ten game unbeaten run halted at Hillsborough by Bradford City, the Owls bounced back from this setback with a win at Saltergate against Chesterfield and a home triumph over Peterborough before throwing away a two goal lead at Griffin Park as they allowed Brentford to snatch an unlikely draw.
Joey O’Brien returned to Bolton after his loan spell and Paul Sturrock brought in Craig Rocastle to replace him at the heart of the Owls midfield.
This man was sorely missed towards the end of the campaign
Steve Adams and Alex Bruce were also added to the squad in this time as well as career backup goalkeeper Chris Adamson.
Wins over Doncaster Rovers and Blackpool followed but both came at a price as top scorer Steven MacLean and goalkeeper David Lucas succumbed to injuries – Graham Barrett and Paul Gallacher were loaned in to replace them but were substandard replacements as the Owls went through a dodgy run of form, a good away point at Colchester was followed by the Owls having to recover a two goal deficit at Hillsborough to avoid defeat against struggling Torquay United.
A disastrous tactical experiment at Huddersfield followed and the Owls were perhaps lucky to just lose 1-0 before a controversial Hillsborough encounter against Tranmere saw referee Andre Marriner send Zigor Aranalde off for touching Matt Jackson, the Owls would go on to lose 2-1 against their playoff rivals.
The Owls scraped a point at Oldham before being tanked 3-0 at Hartlepool on a wet Friday night,a goalless draw at already relegated Stockport County saw the Owls barely holding on to a place in the top six, their goal difference being what saved them and with two tough games against Hull and Bristol City remaining – Paul Sturrock knew the Owls had to get something at the KC.
30th April 2005, Hull City 1-2 Sheffield Wednesday, The KC Stadium, Att – 24,277
When the pressure is on, the Owls usually fail to produce, the 2004/05 Owls were at times a different proposition and having lost all momentum, Wednesday fans were beginning to wonder if they’d even make the top six after being entrenched there since late December.
For once the Owls rose to the occasion, Drew Talbot put the Owls in front before Stuart Elliott levelled from the penalty spot.
The Owls were not to be denied however and they got their reward with minutes to go, James Quinn didn’t score many goals but his Owls career will forever be remembered for his late winner that saw the Owls secure their berth in the top six.
Gallacher, Bruce, Heckingbottom, Bullen, Wood, McGovern, Brunt (Hamshaw 83), Whelan, Adams (Rocastle 83), Talbot (Peacock 69), Quinn
UNUSED SUBS – Adamson, Aranalde
Victory at Hull City confirmed a play-off spot…
A dead rubber against Bristol City saw the Owls lose 3-2 at Hillsborough after another fightback from 2-0 down, Paul Gallacher’s sending off saw City convert a late penalty past Lee Peacock but their place in the top six was secured and a play off semi-final against Brentford awaited.
We all know what happened from there…
Twitter: @OwlsAlive and @DGood83