PREVIEW | United -v- Wednesday

PREVIEW | United -v- Wednesday

The build-up to the second meeting of Wednesday and United could hardly be any different to the first.

The interest in the September meeting was simmering from the moment the Championship fixtures were released.

Remember, a large portion of Wednesdayites had been looking forward to United’s return. Be it showmanship, or the foolhardy belief that six points were to be laid out on a buffet platter, many believed that this season would further evidence Wednesday’s dominance of the city of Sheffield.

So we looked forward to the fixture. Even both sub-sections of supporters who cannot wait for derbies to be over must have relished it, even the slightest bit.

The pieces were written, the videos shot; the city cried out to the football world as its moment in the spotlight loomed ever closer on the horizon.

The nerves set in: United were flying while Wednesday were stumbling. Act One hadn’t gone according to the script.

Act Two – the main event – was a Hillsborough horror show.

Act Three – the epilogue – saw United march to the top of the Championship tree, while Wednesday crumbled to such a degree that – previously unthinkable – Carlos Carvalhal left the club.

It is for this reason – the Portuguese’s departure and the ensuing circus – that Wednesday feel totally unprepared for a Friday night trip to Bramall Lane.

With the club in disarray from top to bottom – a brand new CEO with a worrying CV, a chairman whose movements have become ever more erratic, fans falling out with each other, half a fit squad, and a manager in his first week on the job – it feels like Wednesday are walking into the biggest interview of their career wearing just their underpants.

 

Luhukay’s first week

 

With all the attention on the much bigger problems at Hillsborough, has our meeting with United, dare I say it, been a second thought?

What can Jos Luhukay have possibly done this week to resurrect a Wednesday side that is short on quality, confidence and application?

To what extent will he be able to repair the countless faults in the display we saw in the reverse fixture, the same faults that have appeared in many subsequent performances?

The new man will benefit from such a low level of expectation rarely seen in a Sheffield derby.

Can he take advantage of this and deliver an unlikely result?

Derbies, whether they creep on you unexpectedly or not, are a part of our shared history. The history of football in Sheffield is not celebrated enough – certainly not as much as it should be – and so any derby is a chance to add a thread to the tapestry.

With top-level professional football become unrecognisable, and doing so at a frightening rate, the derby as we know it is in danger of morphing into something totally different.

How long before our derby – and others like the Tyne/Wear and Second City – fall victim to the same commercialism and football tourism that has struck Manchester, Merseyside and London?

Let’s celebrate everything good about our derby: the very real ferocity, the eerie nature of the city come Friday morning, the Hi Hos and Hark Now Hears and even the Greasy Chip Butties.

 

 

Wednesday have lost two consecutive league games without scoring, and most recently failed to beat Carlisle United on their own patch.

While the League form is a more pressing concern, our inability to score – or even look a consistent threat – against lower league opposition this weekend does not bode well for those wanting all-out attack at the Lane.

Nor do we need the replay that comes as a result of the stalemate.

Wednesday came closest to securing a pass to Round Four (and the victors of Reading versus Stevenage) through the heads of Atdhe Nuhiu and Lucas Joao, the former nodding onto the bar while Joao couldn’t steer his past the post.

Nuhiu came closest for Wednesday

Nuhiu was kept out by Carlisle goalkeeper Cosgrove, while Reggie Lambe – pinpointed as Carlisle’s dangerman in this preview – dragged an effort just wide.

Lee Bullen was relieved to still be in the competition afterwards, saying, “looking at some of the other FA Cup results the main thing is we are still in there.

“Our first half performance was good, but we never got a break in front of goal.

“We knew we would be up against a resolute defence. The second half was more open and we allowed Carlisle a bit more space and they gave it a go.”

The replay will be played at Hillsborough next Tuesday, with tickets available at £10 for adults in both the Kop and South Stand. The match will be Jos Luhukay’s first game at Hillsborough.

United have suffered a blip of their own in recent weeks

United progressed straight to the Fourth Round with a 1-0 win down at Ipswich, with Chris Wilder able to rotate his side a little in the process.

Nathan Thomas’ long-range effort in the 25th minute was enough, but United did squander further chances that would have made victory more comfortable.

Wilder said in the aftermath:

“Both teams made a few changes and fortunately our changes were just a touch better on the day than the opposition.

“The consistency of the attitude by my team pleased me immensely and I have really enjoyed today.”

Their cup progress aside, United have stumbled somewhat in the Championship during the last six weeks. With just one league win in nine, and with injuries to key players, they have slipped out of the top six for the first considerable length of time during the entire campaign.

You can read more about United’s season so far by reading our interview with John Osborn of A View From John Street by clicking here.

 

 

LAST 5 Carlisle (A) Burton (H) Brentford (A) Forest (A) Boro (H)
WEDNESDAY D 0-0 L 0-3 L 0-2 W 3-0 L 1-2

 

LAST 5  Ipswich (A) Derby (A) Madine (H) Sunderland (H) Villa (A)
UNITED W 1-0 D 1-1 L 0-1 W 3-0 D 2-2

 

HEAD 2 HEAD WEDNESDAY WINS UNITED WINS DRAWS
  48 49 44

 

 

LAST MEETING

 

Wednesday 2-4 United 

24th September, Hillsborough, Att: 32, 839

You thought your Sheffield derby experience was bad.

I was banking on Sky moving the game to lunchtime on Saturday. The plan was beers, match, celebratory beers, head to Manchester, big night out, enjoy Sunday at my leisure – safe in the knowledge that the city was ours.

Oh no.

Sky moved the game to the Sunday, and missing big night out was no option. I have little memory of getting to Hillsborough by train and taxi but, unfortunately, my memory sharpened up after the seventh coffee, right before kick-off.

United embarrassed Wednesday in the first half, scored two excellent goals as a result of Wednesday incompetence, and generally looked very comfortbale.

Gary Hooper clawed Wednesday back into it on the stroke of half time and the miracle comeback looked on when Lucas Joao fired home for 2-2.

United went down the other end immediately and famously silenced the bounce.

Leon Clarke added his second and United’s fourth and from there it was all boos and emptying stands.

I journeyed home with my grandad, wanting to curl up into a ball as soon as possible, and this happened.

 

THE LUHUKAY STARS…

 

Jos has had three and half days to train with his new squad. Drastic changes to the squad simply aren’t possible.

Lees, Bannan, Hutchinson, Hooper, Fletcher, van Aken and Lee are all missing.

Kieren Westwood is close to returning to full-fitness; Joe Wildsmith is an able deputy and one of Wednesday’s better performing players over recent weeks, the lifelong fan and academy product could get his first taste of a senior derby under the Bramall Lane lights.

Venancio and Loovens are likely to pair up at centre-half, with Morgan Fox at left-back. Liam Palmer will continue at right-back if Jack Hunt is not fit.

Selection headaches occur in midfield and up-front, resting largely on who needs dropping due to individual poor form. Butterfield, Wallace and Rhodes have endured a terrible couple of weeks but could all feature.

George Boyd returned from injury against Carlisle and is likely to retain his place in the side.

Will Luhukay go long with Nuhiu?

WILDSMITH

PALMER

VENANCIO

LOOVENS

FOX

WALLACE

BOYD

JONES

REACH

NUHIU

RHODES


KEY PLAYERS

 

ADAM REACH – Wednesday need a big game performance from Adam Reach. A player of excellent ability and work rate, anything positive this team will achieve will likely involve him at the heart.

He will need to stretch United’s stuttering back-line by drawing defenders out wide. With Wilder favouring a 3-5-2, he will plenty of space to work in should he get round his opposite number: space he utilised to great effect in setting up Lucas Joao at Hillsborough in the first fixture.

If Reach is kept quiet, The Owls will be relying on Ross Wallace – a player miles off his best – he couldn’t find a better game to restore his best form.

LEON CLARKE – The Championship top scorer. The year is 2018. But this is not a joke: in order to achieve anything in this game, Wednesday have to stop Leon Clarke.

 

 

THE BETTING BOX: 5 OF THE BEST

 

BET Wednesday WIN United WIN DRAW
Utd/Wednesday HT/FT Lavery any time
BEST ODDS 9/2 4/5 11/4 66/1 11/5
BOOKIES

 

HUGH’S VERDICT:

What’s the best we can hope for? Angela mentioned after meeting the new manager, a 6-0 win that utilises several academy players and a penalty save from late-sub Katrien Meire.

Lovely stuff, but it’s not going to happen.

What’s the best we can hope for, realistically?

Eleven players who play with clear direction, individually and collectively; an improvement on the Hillsborough fixture; an improvement on recent performances; some fight, enough to make the game difficult for United.

VERDICT – Luhukay’s changes will prove to be too little, too late. A draw is the best we can hope for.

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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