PREVIEW | Play-off second leg

PREVIEW | Play-off second leg

How are your nerves?

Here we go, then. One final game between Wednesday and a place at Wembley.

One momentous occasion that, whatever the outcome, will live long in the memory.

Carlos Carvalhal and his team have played a strikingly straight bat since play-off qualification was secured at Ipswich.

His manner with the press, the resting of players against Fulham, and a largely calm display at the weekend; everything is seemingly in accord with the master plan.

Hillsborough under the lights will be the biggest possible test of Carlos’ ideas.

He will have his team prepared; indeed, they know they can thrive under the pressure; but the ferocious atmosphere and winner-takes-all nature of the tie will put pay to any sense of serenity.

The Head Coach himself has revealed that things will be a little different to Sunday.

He’s right, too. Come 10.30pm, one way or the other, one blue and white contingent will be formulating Wembley plans.

Let’s hope it’s the right contingent.

 

 

Last game Opposition Result Shots On target Corners Cards Fouls Possession
WEDNESDAY Town (A) 0-0 3 0 1 4 15 31%
TOWN Wednesday (H) 0-0 12 2 8 1 11 69%

 

Sunday’s first leg has been deconstructed and reassembled to fit any number of narratives.

As a result, it has also been wildly over-thought.

The statistics map what was a tight, largely lifeless affair in which consistent Huddersfield possession could not breach a solid Wednesday defence.

Personally, with the exception of a couple of individual errors, this was a supreme defensive display from Wednesday.

Criticise Carvalhal for the evident lack of ambition, but this result has handed us the initiative.

Save a fresh-air kick from Loovens, and Tom Lees walloping the ball at his own player, Town too would have had no shots on target.

The plan was executed to near perfection. Wednesday were wasteful in possession – possession which could have led to chances of our own – but the defensive aspects of this performance were excellent.

Huddersfield’s danger men: Mooy, Wells, Kachunga and Brown; all were dealt with comfortably.

Glenn Loovens won every tackle and only lost one aerial duel (his fresh air kick); he made five interceptions and four clearances.

Tom Lees, easily Wednesday’s man of the match, made an exceptional ten headed clearances, missing only one tackle, making three blocks.

Supreme

Further forward, things weren’t so clever. Barry Bannan’s beautifully weighted cross to Jack Hunt was our only successful pass into the Town penalty area.

Our one corner was clutched from the air by Joel Coleman.

Our two most memorable forays  into Town territory resulted in long range wallops. The Head Coach will have been frustrated that his side could not test Coleman, Huddersfield’s stand-in goalkeeper.

Wednesday are now unbeaten in eight against Huddersfield, going four matches without conceding against David Wagner’s Terriers.

Continuing those streaks would go a long way to ensuring a return up Wembley Way.

Last month, Wednesday beat Derby, got one over Mick McCarthy and returned from Loftus Road with three points.

Don’t talk to me about ending streaks.

 

Play-off histories

 

Wednesday’s three play-off journeys give them the following record: P6 W4 D2 L1.

Okay, we can’t learn anything from the form here, other than that one defeat has had a profound effect on this current bunch of players.

Nine of the players from last season’s Wembley defeat started on Sunday.

Those absent – Hooper and Hutchinson – were both injured.

Carlos has talked up the relative quality of our substitutes and our ability to change matches tactically compared to last season.

Injuries or not: it is clear who the Head Coach trusts on the field.

As for Town, they are play-off regulars, this time taking their eighth place in thirty seasons.

Andy Booth fired them to the second tier in 1995 – their first play-off campaign.

Between 2002 and 2012, Huddersfield entered the play-offs six times, winning once in the fourth tier and once in the third tier, also losing out on four occasions.

Their most memorable day, of course, sealed a return to the second tier after an eleven year absence.

Penalties followed a 0-0 draw with Sheffield United, and Town inexplicably missed their first three.

Jordan Rhodes and Jack Hunt were among seven scorers before Steve Simonsen sent his penalty into orbit.

Since, they’ve contrived to have *exactly* the same season for four concurrent years; winning roughly fourteen games each term, scoring about 55 goals, conceding around 70, and finishing somewhere near 18th.

 

Crikey.

 

 

HEAD 2 HEAD WEDNESDAY WINS TOWN WINS DRAWS
  20 24 13

 

 

CARVALHAL’S COHORTS

 

Wednesday are almost at full strength.

Expect little change from the weekend. Hutchinson and Hooper were both kept out completely with the former more likely to return for this leg.

We’ll miss Hooper should be absent; much has been written and said about his excellent link play.

Reach and Wallace both have excellent understanding with their full-backs: something to consider from a defensive perspective.

Could Reach drop out with Forestieri moving to the left, accommodating room for Rhodes?

Whoever starts, Carvalhal will be left with plenty of options from the bench.

 

WESTWOOD

HUNT

LEES

LOOVENS

PUDIL

WALLACE

LEE

BANNAN

REACH

FLETCHER

FORESTIERI

 

 

KEY PLAYER

 

ROSS WALLACE – Last season, Wednesday had Wallace to thank for his two semi-final goals.

The first, a long range beauty in the magical 2-0 home win; the second, a fortuitous cross that evaded everyone on the south coast.

The Scot’s ability to find moments of genius from nowhere has won Wednesday numerous points in his two years with the club.

Cast your minds back to January, and the distance bullet which opened the scoring against tonight’s opponents.

Wallace celebrates

His contribution is much more rounded, however.

The aforementioned relationship with Jack Hunt is key to Wednesday’s approach, offensively and defensively.

Wallace missed five games during the league season: we took three points on just one occasion, losing twice.

 

 

THE BETTING BOX: 5 OF THE BEST

 

BET Wednesday WIN Town WIN DRAW
SWFC 2-1 HTAFC Rhodes hat-trick
BEST ODDS 5/4 11/4 23/10 9/1 100/1
BOOKIES

 

HUGH’S VERDICT:

Electric atmosphere. Check.

Hillsborough under the lights. Check.

Two teams, full of ability. Check.

Two coaches, both capable of out-witting the other. Check.

Hopefully the team can play the opponent not the occasion, and the crowd can create the occasion without worrying about our opponents.

All Wednesday.

Enjoy.

VERDICT: Not jinxing anything. 

Hugh
Owls Alive
E-MAIL: owlsalive@gmail.com
Twitter: @OwlsAlive and @hugh_wragg

Images: SWFC, unless stated.


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