PREVIEW | Wednesday -v- Boro

PREVIEW | Wednesday -v- Boro

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Not for Wednesday fans.

Despite a slight improvement against top of the table Wolves, many fans are planning for a future without our current Head Coach, Carlos Carvalhal.

As it stands, Carlos can leave Wednesday as their greatest manager of the century. Two play-off campaigns, some periods of truly exciting attractive football, great team goals and fantastic occasions: these will be the moments we remember from the Carvalhal-era.

But now, many, myself included, think that he has taken the club as far as he can. This is the first time I’ve expressed this opinion publicly. I’d keep him until the end of the season, if money is that tight.

There are pros and cons to both approaches: retaining the Head Coach saves money, installing a new manager now gives him six months with this squad before any summer changes.

How much of an overhaul does this squad need?

A long-term plan for the summer has to be made now. With promotion a pipe-dream, our younger players should be phased into the side while those with expiring contracts should be slowly sidelined.

The club and its fans will retain this sense of limbo until the long term future is organised. The whole club is going through the motions.

It won’t change any time soon: chairman and coach still share a good relationship; fan pressure is only just beginning to become a factor. Nearly 24,000 in attendance last Friday, was it? Really?

Just one striking example of our poor organisation – mercifully, off the pitch – was raised by Angela last week. The stadium has a no-backpack policy on match-days.

Just days after implementing the ban for the first time, the club shop held a flash sale on back-packs. Glorious.

Returning to on-field matters, what can we expect to achieve from Saturday’s game against Middlesbrough?

Three points would be nice, but what would they achieve? Realistically, no win is going to kick-start our play-off hopes.

Pressure is mounting

Of course, the club can never take that approach.

“We’re just taking it one game at a time.”

“There’s a long way to go, who knows?”

“With the right additions in January, anything is possible.”

All true, but it won’t happen. There’s no statistical evidence to suggest Wednesday are capable of better, there’s nothing in this side that is inspiring the fans to believe it is possible.

Our best players are injured, and those who are fit look a shadow of their former selves.

 

 

Back to the Wovles game.

It was almost entirely predictable. Wednesday raised their game for the arrival of the table-toppers but it still wasn’t enough.

The goal came out of nothing and the home side made hard work of getting near the Wolves net.

Wednesday started the game fairly brightly but would find themselves behind inside half an hour.

Adam Reach found himself with plenty of time in the Leppings Lane box but could not steer an early effort on target.

He was shown how to control the ball expertly just a short while after by Ruben Neves – the Championship’s most expensive player, who steered home a lovely strike from the edge of the box on 34 minutes.

Chances – half-chances, quarter-chances, the ball was in the Wolves box – Gary Hooper nodding square from the byline, Ross Wallace missed the target, Atdhe Nuhiu and Lucas Joao challenged each other for a six-yard box header.

Morgan Fox was unfortunate so see red for a second bookable offence late on. Wolves should have added to their one goal on more than one occasion while Wednesday poured forward with a man down.

Garry Monk’s Boro side have faltered somewhat of late, losing three in four, with Monk turning on his players slightly after their latest defeat at Millwall.

A Stewart Downing consolation midway through the second half threatened to bring Boro back into the game after Millwall had taken a two-goal first-half lead, but the visitors struggled to make more chances in the final moments.

Monk lamented his side’s failure to put a plan into action:

“We know coming here – we’ve prepared the players all week – the direct play it’s going to be: that battle, that physical element to it.

“To then be so naive and lose a lot of those battles in that first half in important areas – it’s naive, schoolboy stuff.

“I’ve said it too many times this season. It’s never through a lack of effort within the group. It’s just comes back to naivety. I feel like a broken record at the moment.”

 

 

LAST 5 Wolves (H) Norwich (A) Hull (H) Reading (A) Ipswich (A)
WEDNESDAY L 0-1 L 1-3 D 2-2 D 0-0 D 2-2

 

LAST 5  Millwall (A) Ipswich (H) Bristol (A) Derby (H) Birmingham (H)
BORO L 1-2 W 2-0 L 1-2 L 0-3 W 2-0

 

HEAD 2 HEAD WEDNESDAY WINS BORO WINS DRAWS
  46 44 17

 

 

LAST MEETING

 

Boro 3-0 Wednesday

FA Cup, 8 Jan 2017, Hillsborough, Att: 23, 661

A fairly strong Wednesday outfit looked second best against a second string Boro side in this FA Cup fixture.

Having made it to half time unscathed, Wednesday surrendered in the second period to hand Boro a place in the fourth round.

Goals from Grant Leadbitter, Alvaro Negredo and Martin de Roon sealed Boro’s progress.

You can read Tom’s excellent ramble – among my favourites from last season – here.

 

 

CARVALHAL’S COHORTS

 

Sam Hutchinson will start, as confirmed by Carlos Carvalhal in his Thursday press conference. Will it be in midfield or at the expense of one of the Dutch defensive duo?

Joe Wildsmith’s distribution – usually among his top strenghts – let him down against Wolves but will retain his place ahead of Kieren Westwood.

Barry Bannan faces a late fitness check.

Liam Palmer was among Wednesday’s better performers against Wolves and deserves to retain his place at right-back.

Fully-fit Daniel Pudil should replace the suspended Morgan Fox. With the two vying for one spot, Pudil has an excellent chance to retain his spot in the team.

WILDSMITH

PALMER

van AKEN

LOOVENS

PUDIL

WALLACE

HUTCHINSON

BANNAN

REACH

HOOPER

FLETCHER

KEY PLAYERS

 

JOOST van AKEN – Has had a shaky spell, still looks error-prone, but is evidently a technically sound defender who can become a great asset for this club.

Against Wolves we saw the best of his defensive qualities, as well as the odd foray from the back-line.

With Wednesday lacking penetration at present, even the odd burst from a centre-half can liven up the Hillsborough crowd.

BRITT ASSOMBALONGA – Eleven goals already, a tough physical presence, a quick mover, an excellent finisher: Assombalonga is an excellent second tier forward who will test any defence at this level.

With Downing, Bamford and Braithwaite running off him, Boro look to have a strong looking forward line.

THE BETTING BOX: 5 OF THE BEST

 

BET Wednesday WIN Boro WIN DRAW
2-1 Penalty in match
BEST ODDS 7/4 9/5 58/25 10/1 16/5
BOOKIES Paddy Power

HUGH’S VERDICT:

I’m sick of being negative in this section.

So Wednesday are going to win.

It won’t be pretty, we’ll be hanging on, the relief will be palpable. Relief will be evident in the crisp night air. Reach out at full-time as you applaud the players, and relief will be a tangible mass that is vapourising from within the stadium.

A small grin will be etched onto the face of Carlos Carvalhal.

Sam Hutchinson will be pumping his fists like a heavyweight boxer who’s just won a points decision.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

VERDICT – 2-1. Please.

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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