PREVIEW | Wednesday -v- Birmingham

PREVIEW | Wednesday -v- Birmingham

It’s interesting how a new manager instantly encourages a change in attitude.

Jos Luhukay has overseen three 0-0 stalemates in the League, a run that would have seen his predecessor depicted as burning effigies.

Maybe the poor run in the Bullen interim has given a sense of perspective to what is a par score for this side.

The new manager deserves praise, and lots of it, for the solidity he has given to a back-line that was leakier than a sieve.

It’s impossible to ignore the fact that the same lack of enterprise shown by Luhukay would have seen Carlos Carvalhal decried as negative.

I’m not longing for the Portuguese, and see little sense in looking too far back, but the overall change in attitude is curious and worth highlighting.

Shifting our attention ahead, despite the monotony of 0-0s – unbelievably the first time three have been recorded in succession across Wednesday’s Football League history – there is lots to be positive about.

Okay, the entertainment has thus far been grayer than Gray, but there are signs of life in this side.

The biggest relief is the apparent unity in the squad, and the shift in tactical system that is obviously being adhered to.

Are we lucky to be undefeated under Luhukay?

Until Tuesday – no, we were not. We had performed very well in all three games.

Did Middlesbrough deserve to beat us over 90 minutes? Possibly.

But they did fashion a string of chances, particularly in the second half, that should have been taken to take the game beyond Wednesday.

Wildsmith to thank, again

Improvements have to be made going forward, and with the return of several key players, you’d think that this side can move up the table.

Birmingham City pay us a visit in our next fixture and present a different challenge for our new manager.

They might have put three past Sunderland in midweek, but City are comfortably the lowest goal scorers in the division.

So we have the least potent threat against a newly formidable defence. In theory.

The challenge lies in taking this side, watertight as they are, and moulding them into an equally strong attacking force.

With players adapting to new positions in new systems, don’t expect Wednesday to smother Birmingham at the weekend, but a little progress further up the pitch would be welcome.

 

 

Birmingham are a curious side. With the same number of wins as Wednesday – just seven, only four sides have fewer – they sit a few places below on account of having lost six games more.

With their attacking threat responsible for just nineteen goals, it seems obvious that their ‘better’ performing players would be their defenders, statistically at least.

With two wins and one draw since the turn of the year (leaving and one damaging home defeat to Derby) you could say that Birmingham are on a small upturn in form.

As a result of this good form, City have now hauled themselves out of the drop zone.

Their most recent success came at home in midweek, against fellow strugglers Sunderland.

Indeed, before Tuesday, Birmingham were the lowest scorers in the EFL.

That Birmingham suddenly found their scoring boots against Sunderland is equally a reflection of their visitors’ woes – to paraphrase Alex Ferguson, ‘Lads, it’s Sunderland’.

David Davis gave the Blues the lead just before the half hour mark.

Jeremie Boga headed in a Jacques Maghoma cross to make it 2-0 before half-time, before Sam Gallagher added a third after the restart.

City manager Steve Cotterill said after the game:

“The last goal is a slight disappointment for us.

“Our standards of late have been very good so that’s a slight disappointment for us really, because normally defending is something we’re quite good at that.”

Wednesday, of course, battled to another 0-0 away at Middlesbrough.

Clear cut chances came almost exclusively for the home side, with Joe Wildsmith again to thank for preserving the clean sheet.

Congratulations to the young ‘keeper on his Player of the Month award, by the way, the shirt is now absolutely his to lose.

The game marked the second Wednesday appearance of Jordan Thorniley, and the first League appearance for Joel Pelupessy in the heart of midfield.

After the game, in his interview with BBC Radio Sheffield, Jos Luhukay revealed he was happy to leave The Riverside with a point after watching his side struggle in the second half.

“After 90 minutes we must say it was a difficult game for us.

“In the second half, Middlesbrough were stronger than us. We lost the ball too fast and we had to do more defending.

“In our situation, we are always happy when we can play away and take one point. In the first half what I saw was very good, but in the second half we were losing the ball too fast.”

 

 

LAST 5 Boro (A) Reading (H) Cardiff (H) Carlisle (H) United (A)
WEDNESDAY D 0-0 W 3-1 D 0-0 W 2-0 D 0-0

 

LAST 5  Sunderland (H) Huddersfield (A) Preston (A) Derby (H) Burton (H)
CITY W 3-1 D 1-1 D 1-1 L 0-3 W 1-0

 

HEAD 2 HEAD WEDNESDAY WINS CITY WINS DRAWS
  34 36 24

 

 

LAST MEETING

 

Birmingham City 1-0 Wednesday

27th September 2017, St. Andrews, Att: 20, 367

Wednesday were roundly criticised by fans and pundits alike after such a limp reaction to the Steel City derby humiliation.

As a result of the defeat, the club dropped into the bottom half of the Championship table.

Lee Carsley gained the first victory of his temporary spell thanks to a late strike from Isaac Vassell.

Wednesday managed three shots on target, with Adam Reach coming closest to securing a point.

 

THE LUHUKAY STARS…

 

Joe Wildsmith will continue in goal, Adam Reach will start, Joel Pelupessy should continue in midfield. Morgan Fox will play on the left owing to a lack of other options. Federico Venancio is good, it turns out.

The other six spots are up for grabs.

Who will be fit enough to play in the back three? Thorniley has impressed but club captain Loovens will play if fit.

Will Jack Hunt get a chance on the right flank?

Who will join Adam Reach in the middle? Wallace adds creativity, Jones adds solidity, Butterfield adds… something.

And who will play up front? Lucas Joao looks to be our first choice at present, with Atdhe Nuhiu and Jordan Rhodes both almost shown the exit door on Wednesday.

Could Marco Matias return to the side?

WILDSMITH

VENANCIO

LOOVENS

PUDIL

HUNT

WALLACE

PELUPESSY

REACH

FOX

NUHIU

JOAO

 

KEY PLAYERS

 

FEDERICO VENANCIO – An unknown quantity just two months ago, Venancio has quickly become our most reliable (fit) option at the heart of defence.

He has especially taken to his new role as part of a three, marauding forward with more confidence and completing his defensive actions with aplomb.

With Lees and van Aken absent, and Loovens’ involvement sporadic, the Portuguese has become our most senior defender.

CRAIG GARDNER – Recovering from injury but was expected to play against Sunderland, a game which he sat out.

Gardner adds tenacity and experience to the Birmingham midfield. Alongside Miakel Kieftenbeld, he forms a midfield pivot that could play in much better sides in this division.

 

 

 

THE BETTING BOX: 5 OF THE BEST

 

BET Wednesday WIN City WIN DRAW
Draw/SWFC HT/FT Nuhiu any time
BEST ODDS 21/17 14/5 9/4 9/2 56/19
BOOKIES UniBet

 

HUGH’S VERDICT – Birmingham are in decent form and will take solace from their move out of the relegation zone.

There are still significant gaps in their side and weaknesses that this Wednesday side can expose. Despite the changes brought about by our new manager, The Owls are yet to control a league match and pose a continuous, significant threat.

Here we have an opportunity to do so.

Can the Luhukay reign move into second gear?

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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