PREVIEW | Birmingham City -v- Wednesday

PREVIEW | Birmingham City -v- Wednesday

“Today was not normal.”

So spoke Carlos Carvalhal in his rather shell-shocked post-match interview on Sunday.

For his sake, Wednesday have to return to a sense of normality as they take on Birmingham City at St. Andrew’s tonight.

The change in attitude from the vast majority of Wednesday fans could easily be attributed to the fickle nature of football support. That is, if you hadn’t seen the meek way in which Carvalhal’s side surrendered to United at Hillsborough.

Equally as galling, for many, were the nods to ‘another three points’ or ‘what is done is done’.

Rightly or wrongly, derby defeat will have knocked the final nail in the Head Coach’s coffin for many fans.

If we take his theory as red, that it was indeed just another game, an immediate response is needed in Birmingham.

Promotion candidates have to show a response to conceding four at home.

The Wednesday squad have been silent since 3pm on Sunday. Many will be back onside if their talking is done on the St. Andrew’s pitch.

 

 

Last game Opposition Result Shots On target Corners Cards Fouls Possession
WEDNESDAY United (H) L 2-4 12 2 9 1 13 63%
BIRMINGHAM Derby (A) D 1-1 10 2 6 1 10 46%

Wednesday were embarrassed by a United side who had everything you need to win a derby game.

The home fans were left in a stunned silence as Wilder’s Blades raced into a 2-0 lead after fifteen minutes.

David Brooks, in only his second league start, terrified the Wednesday defence from the off: his persistence in possession attracted a tackle from Tom Lees that gave United a set-piece opportunity with just two minutes gone.

From 20 yards, a back-heel from Brooks left the wall helpless and John Fleck rifled home past a disappointingly flat-footed Westwood.

Fleck drives home (Image – SUFC on Twitter)

Leon Clarke, fifth-choice United forward and former Official Wednesday Club Fool then made it two, capitalising on some defending that your uncle’s Sunday League reserve team would have bettered.

United were in control – Basham could have easily made it three – and Wednesday were nowhere to be seen for the rest of the first half.

That was until the second minute of time added on, when Gary Hooper nipped in at the near post to take advantage of some persistent wing-play from Ross Wallace.

Jones was hooked at half time, but frankly any other two of the back nine could and should have joined him.

Wednesday starred in the biggest comedy of the Championship season so far in the second half.

Lucas Joao was introduced and, alongside Hooper and Fletcher, Wednesday’s forward line began to create United problems across their back five.

Corner followed corner, but clear-cut chances were not forthcoming.

The equaliser did come through Joao; it was a lovely team goal, probably Wednesday’s best of the season so far.

The ball was played out from the back; Lees, Lee and Bannan moved it through midfield; Reach took to mazy run on the left flank; Joao received the full-back’s low cross and, with two touches, controlled it before lashing home.

The celebrations had barely started before United restored their lead.

Wednesday were level for just three minutes across the entire game: two minutes in the first half before Fleck’s free-kick, and one in the second before Duffy embarrassed van Aken and Westwood.

Clarke then took it upon himself to bully the Owls’ back five; knocking van Aken and Lees off the ball before poking home.

The tragedy was complete.

Carlos told BBC Radio Sheffield: “I don’t remember the last time we conceded four goals and we made mistakes I had not seen us make.

“I’m the coach and I’m responsible. We need to react fast because we had been doing well before today.”

Birmingham took a credible point from Derby to halt their losing streak, with Lee Carsley taking his first game as caretaker manager following the dismissal of Harry Redknapp.

Lucas Jutkiewicz glanced a header past Scott Carson with his first touch to give the Blues a shock lead, before a lad called Sam Winnall (“who?” I hear you say!) levelled for the home side.

Winnall has now scored in three consecutive games against City for three different teams: Barnsley, Wednesday and Derby.

Carsley said after the game: “We knew that we had to be at our best in terms of shape and possession and I thought we did that quite well.

“We just need to look now about having a little more quality on the counter and in the final third.”

 

 

LAST 5 United (H) Cardiff (A) Brentford (H) Forest (H) Burton (A)
WEDNESDAY L 2-4 D 1-1 W 2-1 W 3-1 D 1-1

 

LAST 5  Derby (A) Preston (H) Leeds (A) Norwich (A) Reading (H)
BIRMINGHAM D 1-1 L 1-3 L 0-2 L 0-1 L 0-2

 

HEAD 2 HEAD WEDNESDAY WINS BIRMINGHAM WINS DRAWS
  34 35 24

 

 

LAST MEETING

 

Wednesday 3-0 Birmingham

10 February 2017, Hillsborough, Att: 24, 805

Rhodes 9′, Winnall 80′, Reach 86′

Wednesday’s new look forward line came to fruition as Wednesday comfortably beat Birmingham and held on to a top-six berth.

City threatened to make a game of it in the second half, but two quick fire goals from Winnall and Reach in the last ten minutes gave the scoreline a comfortable edge in Wednesday’s favour.

The new strike force, for the time being

Rhodes scored what we all presumed would the first of many on nine minutes, directing a Ross Wallace free-kick into the turf and back up into the Leppings Lane net.

Winnall and Bannan both had chances to further Wednesday’s lead before the break, and the former notched his first in blue and white during the second half.

His diving header made it two, before Reach strode past a labouring defence and slotted home for three.

You can read Liam’s ramble here.

 

 

CARVALHAL’S COHORTS

 

I say this a lot here, but who knows?

Until Sunday, Carlos had a regular eleven.

He has rightfully demanded a response from his players, in both his post-United and pre-Birmingham press conferences.

Surely, changes have to be made.

Tom Lees and Jack Hunt both decided to turn in their worst performance in an Owls shirt on Sunday, with Adam Reach not far behind.

Bannan and Jones – so consistent until now – were both sloppy in possession and couldn’t get near their counterparts in the United midfield.

JvA was run all over the field by Leon Clarke.

Who will survive? Most of them, probably. Reach and Bannan are favourites of Carlos, and are likely to start at St. Andrew’s.

Gary Hooper is a shoo-in; if Fletcher is fit enough, he will get his customary hour.

This could be a convenient time for the Head Coach to revisit his full-back rotation policy.

 

WESTWOOD

PALMER

LEES

VAN AKEN

FOX

WALLACE

LEE

BANNAN

REACH

HOOPER

FLETCHER

 

 

KEY PLAYERS

 

GARY HOOPER – Still, he just can’t get enough.

Perhaps the only Sunday starter to come out with any credit. He will be key if Wednesday are to produce a positive performance.

He now has five goals in five games and sits just one behind the trio of leaders in the early chase for the division’s Golden Boot.

Wednesday have to find a way to score the first goal and save themselves the hardship of coming from behind. Carvalhal’s boys have opened the scoring on just two occasions this season; both of which saw late equalisers conceded.

CRAIG GARDNER – The central cog of the City midfield.

Was a standout in Birmingham’s resilient display at Derby.

The former Premier League player will have a task in containing a (hopefully) rejuvenated Owls midfield. Should Barry Bannan recapture his pre-Sunday form, his match-up against former teammate Gardner will be key to deciding the outcome of the match.

 

 

THE BETTING BOX: 5 OF THE BEST

 

BET Wednesday WIN Birmingham WIN DRAW
Hooper any time BTTS Yes
BEST ODDS 8/5 2/1 23/10 21/10 Evs
BOOKIES Various

 

HUGH’S VERDICT:

The approach to this game has been unlike any other in Carlos Carvalhal’s two year tenure.

Essentially ring-fencing his squad, absolving them of blame for Sunday’s performance and taking that criticism on himself, he runs the risk of even further backlash should Wednesday fall to defeat tonight.

It is a high-risk strategy, the product of his public persona since the build up to the derby.

This game has become all about him, as he obviously intended.

Anything that has happened before matters not, for the Head Coach. However, he might be wise to learn a couple of lessons from his own mistakes last week.

Back to on-field matters; Wednesday have a much stronger eleven and more quality throughout the squad than tonight’s opponents.

This will be a scrappy game: Carsley has spoken publicly of his desire to tighten and narrow City’s defensive lines. Can Wednesday – with renewed energy supplied by a Carvalhal rocket – muster the quality to break through?

VERDICT: A dull draw that does little to inspire the fans after the weekend. Then it’s Leeds at Hillsborough. Lovely.

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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