PREVIEW | Wednesday -v- United

PREVIEW | Wednesday -v- United

Wednesday have been in good form of late, returning seven points from three games over the course of a week.

Carlos Carvalhal’s boys are unbeaten at Hillsborough and, with the exception of a slow half against Brentford, seem to have found their homo mojo again.

There have been faults this season, but you’d have to agree, that the on-field preparation for this game could hardly have gone better.

It’s a good job too, as this weekend we welcome Sheffield United.

I’ve really missed derbies. I understand those who have not, really I do. But these games are what it’s all about, for me. The tribal nature of red versus blue, games that champion everything good about the British game, the sights, sounds and smells that only arise when neighbour meets neighbour.

Like it or not, our two clubs’ very existence somewhat depends on the other. Whether you look to the past, the present or the future, both Wednesday and United define some of their spells simply by how much better or worse they were than the other.

Indeed, United exist as a club because of Wednesday.

Our season doesn’t depend on Saturday, not at all, but that does not make the game ‘just another three points’.

Derbies are history. A very important history. And I think it would be crass to not cherish it.

Let’s do the preview.

 

 

Last game Opposition Result Shots On target Corners Cards Fouls Possession
WEDNESDAY Cardiff (A) D 1-1 8 2 3 2 9 60%
UNITED Norwich (H) L 0-1 17 4 6 2 7 68%

Hooper gave Wednesday the lead

Wednesday secured a good point against Neil Warnock’s Cardiff in South Wales.

The Owls controlled proceedings from the off, playing some lovely football against one of the early pace setters in the division.

Wednesday’s slow, methodical approach completely negated Cardiff’s counter attack, and it was the away side who took a deserved lead into the break.

Joost van Aken strode out of defence, played a lovely ball to Adam Reach on the left wing, whose quick feet took him away from the defender.

The winger curled a lovely cross to the six yard line and the awaiting Gary Hooper, who rose unchallenged to head the ball into the far corner.

The second half was more even, although Wednesday had much the better chances to kill the game.

Steven Fletcher had the best of the bunch. van Aken was again at the heart of it; from inside his own half he arrowed a lovely through ball onto the chest of the Scotsman who could not quite guide his foot around the ball enough.

Sure enough, after Wednesday dominance, the predictable equaliser came in the very last minute of the match, with Sol Bamba turning home a Nathaniel Mendez-Laing ball, following a Westwood save.

Carlos Carvalhal would surely have taken a point at three o’clock but was disappointed not to be returning home with three:

“We are disappointed because we lose two points, we scored one goal and I thought we could achieve a second one.

“We had the best opportunity to kill it with Fletcher and at that moment we must finish the game.”

Big chance for 2-0

United have enjoyed a good start to second tier life.

Until last weekend, all their games at Bramall Lane had resulted in a home win, while away form has been patchy: two wins and two defeats.

Last time out, turbulent Norwich City won 1-0 at the Lane as Chris Wilder somewhat uncharacteristically lost his temper and was sent to the stands.

As it stands, United could have gone top with a win.

This was only the second time this calendar year that they failed to register a home goal and, with a developing injury crisis amongst their forwards, it is not hard to understand why.

Wilder: off!

An unfit Ched Evans and league debutant David Brooks led the line for Wilder’s side.

Norwich were the most likely to score throughout and it was former Wigan forward Yanic Wildschut who gave them the lead in the first half with a low drive to the bottom corner.

United never got going and, in his frustration, Wilder was sent to the stands after cross technical areas in an effort to retrieve the ball and restart play.

He was sent off but will marshal the South Stand touchline on Saturday.

The Blades have won their last two away from home but lost their first two trips without scoring.

 

 

LAST 5 Cardiff (A) Brentford (H) Forest (H) Burton (A) Bolton (A, LC)
WEDNESDAY D 1-1 W 2-1 W 3-1 D 1-1 L 2-3

 

LAST 5  Norwich (H) Bolton (A) Sunderland (A) Derby (H) Leicester (H, LC)
UNITED L 0-1 W 1-0 W 2-1 W 3-1 L 1-4

 

HEAD 2 HEAD WEDNESDAY WINS UNITED WINS DRAWS
  48 44 48

 

 

LAST MEETING

 

Wendesday 1-0 United

26 February 2012, Hillsborough, Att: 36, 364

O’Grady 73′

A derby to go down in Wednesday folklore.

The game, by and large, was terrible. But the result and its meaning has arguably altered the trajectory of both these clubs in the intermittent five years.

United were famously five points ahead – with two games in hand – in the race for League 1 promotion.

They came to Hillsborough as slight favourites after Wednesday enjoyed a winless period that resulted in the loss of Gary Megson’s job.

An ionic image (The Star)

United had chances through Ched Evans and Lee Williamson, and Wednesday rode their luck during the first half.

But they were predictably resilient, and a wonderful cross from Lewis Buxton was turned home by Chris O’Grady to give Wednesday the precious three points.

That’ll be two points and two games in hand, then.

 

 

CARVALHAL’S COHORTS

 

Most of the side picks itself after Wednesday’s recent form.

Westwood, barring any freak injuries we don’t know about, will start between the sticks.

Jack Hunt has been excellent this season and will start on the right flank with Ross Wallace ahead of him. Adam Reach will be on the left somewhere, but where? We could use his mobility in both positions, but will Carlos opt for an extra midfielder and keep him at full-back?

JvA and Tom Lees will continue at centre-half.

Barry Bannan and Kieran Lee are so vital to our creativity and, having managed Lee’s return well, both will start ahead of anchor man David Jones.

Steven Fletcher is another whose injury has been looked after, his knee should last for an hour alongside Gary Hooper.

WESTWOOD

HUNT

LEES

VAN AKEN

REACH

WALLACE

JONES

BANNAN

LEE

HOOPER

FLETCHER

 

 

KEY PLAYERS

 

GARY HOOPER – He just can’t get enough.

With four goals in four games, Hooper is racing up to join the early top scorers. But he is so much more than a goalscorer for Wednesday, indeed, we are unbeaten with him in the side for nigh-on one year.

His link-play and his relationships with Lee, Bannan and Wallace have seen him become much more than the goal poacher we thought we’d signed in January 2016.

His fitness and form are quickly becoming the key to a good season for Wednesday.

BILLY SHARP – Another on four goals, Sharp has been a thorn in our side for years.

Should he fit – no offence Billy, I hope the game comes a day too soon – he will be a handful for Lees and van Aken, and the perfect foil for any one of United’s several support strikers.

David Brooks, big pal of George Hirst (how their summers have contrasted since their partnership won England the Toulan Tournament) is another who has me worried.

They’re all ranting and raving about the youngster on that side of Town and with skills like this, it’s not difficult to see why:

 

Mazy run, opponents = Chesterfield, lovely finish. Almost has a touch of the Barry Bannan about it.

 

 

THE BETTING BOX: 5 OF THE BEST

 

BET Wednesday WIN United WIN DRAW
0-0 BTTS Yes
BEST ODDS Evs 29/10 23/10 17/2 21/10
BOOKIES Will Hill Coral

 

HUGH’S VERDICT:

There is absolutely no way that I am going to be drawn on making a concrete prediction, here.

You’d have to be brave or unfathomably stupid. I’m definitely not brave and hopefully not unfathomably stupid, so you’ll have to deal with a bit of fence-sitting.

Wednesday have the strongest squad on paper, but do United have the better approach for derby fixtures?

Carvalhal’s set up will be key (duh!) and as I’ve alluded to before, he has often outwitted much better managers in the bigger games.

Can Wilder channel his Blades-supporting energies into a match-deciding teamtalk? Or will Wednesday have too much quality for United, regardless of what the bosses say or do?

VERDICT: Monday hang-overs aplenty and a scrappy, feisty affair for Sky to savour.

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

Images: SWFC, unless stated. Line up images: Getty.


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