Wednesday 0 -1 Stevenage

Wednesday 0 -1 Stevenage

I sometimes wonder how Beastie musters the enthusiasm to write a ramble.

Saturday is the perfect example – a monstrous trek down to the south-west to see us undone by two excellent free-kicks and another three points thrown away.

It only takes me half an hour to get to Hillsborough but tonight I’m really struggling to muster the enthusiasm.

Thankfully I’m still quite angry about that performance so hopefully some sense will flow out of the rant contained within my head. Performances and results like tonight were the kind of thing we expected from the Wednesday of old; the ugly, one-dimensional, scared performance we saw at S6 throughout the relegation season.

We’ve not always been fluid this season but on the whole we’ve done enough to grind out results. Tonight it was clear quite early on that it would be one of them miserable Tuesday nights we haven’t experienced at home for a while.

There’s a lot of footie fans on my journalism course so last week me and Euan, a fellow Wednesdayite, persuaded a few of them to come along to the Blackpool game. On a freezing cold night we were outclassed by a much better side in a game we frankly never looked like we wanted to win.

Tonight we managed to persuade six lads to come along to a ‘proper’ game which we would be up for and would be determined to win after the disappointment at Exeter.

So much for that eh?

Little love for Wednesday on Feb 14th

I guess the combination of a midweek game and Valentine’s Night doesn’t help but the crowd looked and felt as low as it was. I think it just crept over 16,000 which must be one of our lowest in the league for some time. It was telling that the 200 or so Stevenage fans could be heard for long spells, particularly after they scored and throughout the second half as Wednesdayites fell silent, dumbstruck by such abjectness , or simply already heading for the exit gates.

I didn’t make it to the pre-match press conference on Monday but I gathered Megson was still pretty unhappy with the performance at Exeter and reckons some players have begun to rest on their laurels somewhat.

Throughout the season Megson has been happy to openly criticise his players when he feels they have been below par, which on the whole seems to have had the right effect. Perhaps that’s beginning to wear off as this confidence-free team has started to spiral out of form in recent weeks.

Again he shuffled the pack. In came Rob Jones to replace the injured Miguel Llera, who has been excellent recently. Lewis Buxton shifted to right back replacing Julian Bennett (presumably injured?) which meant Jon Otsemobor started at right back – who frankly was garbage against Yeovil.

In midfield Chris Lines replaced John Bostock, while JJ played in some sort of free role behind the strikers in the first half. This meant that we had even less width than usual with Prutton on the left and Buxton behind him but not bombing on; while Semi at right wing-back did bomb on but looked scared of running at his man or passing forwards every time he got on the ball.

Madine and O’Grady again started up front – the former will surely not start at Chesterfield after another ineffectual, lazy performance which saw him jeered of when he was replaced midway through the second half.

Whatever happened to Gary Madine Goal Machine? Sulk Machine seems the more appropriate moniker for the man from the North East. I don’t know if he threw a strop when was replaced but I wouldn’t be surprised if he disappeared down the tunnel as quickly as the rest of the team did at the final whistle.

To say the atmosphere was stale would be an understatement. I think I remarked on Twitter before the game that I expected a small crowd but a small crowd usually means at least you will have the ‘hardcore’ support in who will back the team. It’s unfair to judge the crowd on a few loudmouths on the Kop but it became clear early on that patience wasn’t a quality possessed by those sat around me.

Early on we had plenty of possession and although we looked short on confidence we did create a few half chances. Chris O’Grady had a good chance in the first couple of minutes, saved by Day in the Stevenage goal. After seven minutes Madine was seemingly put through by a high long ball from deep but the Stevenage defender got across and played it against the Owls striker for a goal kick.

Throughout, though, there was a subdued atmosphere with JJ looking like Wednesday’s only realistic threat. Stevenage doubled up on him but he still managed to wriggle his way past them at will. Unfortunately the support was frankly invisible and all momentum in any attack was lost once JJ passed the ball.

Stevenage’s first chance of the game came after 12 minutes when Michael Bostwick fired over the bar from long range. If memory serves their only shots in the first half came from Bostwick who had a few ambitious efforts from long range which rarely troubled Bywater.

With JJ causing problems to the Stevenage defence, and the referee, Mr Mathieson, happy to blow the whistle for the slightest infringement, it was a night when we needed Chris Lines to be at his best at set pieces. Unfortunately he had another one of those games where his free-kicks went straight at the ‘keeper and his corners either failed to beat the first man or floated in the air for so long that it would have taken a raging bull to put enough momentum into the ball to beat the Stevenage ‘keeper.

I’ve got a lot of time for Chris Lines but recent performances suggest to me that we might have another Darren Potter on our hands rather than the next Johnny Sheridan.

Even the usually excellent Semedo was getting himself in a muddle and gave away a few clumsy free-kicks. We needed some inspiration but the only inspiration was coming from the heavily-marked JJ.

As usual Chris O’Grady worked hard, often forced wide to try to get into the game with no real support. Too many times Wednesday lacked any invention or spark and the final ball was consistently a poor one. On the half hour Gary Madine probably had his clearest sight of goal when Buxton clipped a ball in from the left. Unfortunately Madine took an age to decide what to do and fired his shot straight at the defender.

Frustration was growing and O’Grady went flying into a tackle, after Madine misplaced a pass intended for him – he was rightly booked by a referee who was more nitpicky than we come to expect but just as clueless when it came to basic decisions. His assistants were equally culpable and the South Stand lino earned an ironic clap from Rob Jones when he finally gave Wednesday a free-kick late on in the half.

Minutes later Bostwick had another effort which was comfortably saved by Bywater. From the resulting counter attack JJ once again waltzed his way past several Stevenage defenders and his shot moved in the air but was palmed over by Day.

Right on the brink of half time Stevenage got the sucker punch they didn’t really deserve but certainly played for. A corner came in from the South Stand side, was headed back across the box at the far post and then tapped in from about two yards by defender Scott Laird to put the visitors ahead.

I’d have to see the goal again to work out who should have been marking who but another goal from a set piece saw Wednesday booed off at half-time.

Against Yeovil I had every confidence we had it in us to fight back and win the game, which we did. Tonight you got the impression that simply wasn’t going to happen.

Yes, our luck deserted us at times but throughout the second half we resorted to hoofball tactics, failed to get JJ on the ball often enough and frankly didn’t even make Day make more than a couple of saves.

There seems to have been a pattern this season of us going in at half time, getting a round of ‘fucks’ from Megson and then sorting it out.

Tonight we simply went through the motions. The biggest roar of the night came when Megson squared up to his opposite number and was encouraged to knock him out.

Losing patience?

Early on in the second half there did seem to be SOME urgency in our attacks although very little idea of how to break down a Stevenage side who were happy to defend in numbers. They didn’t even waste time much to be honest – they didn’t need to. Morrison came on for the ineffectual Madine with 20 minutes left, but for all his effort he barely touched the ball.

Our best chance to equalise came when a Stevenage defender nearly cleared the ball into his own net, only for the ‘keeper to pull off an excellent save. The ‘keeper decided to have a lie down on the goal-line, Wednesday decided not to shoot and when the ball finally went dead the referee went to check that the ‘keeper hadn’t simply died of boredom. It was one of those nights.

Mike Jones came on to replace Prutton but he continued the same veinas  he has during his short Wednesday career by looking like a rabbit in headlights. Stevenage grew in attacking confidence as the half drew to a close, clearly unimpressed by our attempts to break them down and keen to rub salt into the wounds.

By now Wednesday fans were streaming out of the ground and by the end I’d be surprised if there was more than 10,000 left inside to see the players skulk down the tunnel.

I don’t blame them frankly.

I know you should get behind your team and I know a goal can come from anywhere but I’d have happily put my student loan on us not scoring if we’d have played all night.

A thought that struck me as we walked out of the ground at the end was how reliant we have become on Jermaine Johnson.

While Ben Marshall was here we were accused of being a one-man team and some fans felt we were. I guess our results since he left would go along with that but for me Marshall was one cog in the wheel of a successful team.

Everyone played their part but Marshall got the praise because he was the man with the ability to unlock the defence.

Carrying the team

For my money, since JJ has come back into the team he has been unstoppable and, if he could put this form together for a lengthy period, would end up with as good a record as Marshall had while he was here.

But whereas when Marshall was here he contributed to a team effort, it seems that now we have become completely reliant on JJ. His piece of magic turned the game around against Yeovil and he scored what could have been a winner down at Exeter.

He was excellent again tonight but the other ten men on the pitch should frankly hang their heads in shame. There were so many poor performances it seems harsh to highlight particular players.

I’ve already mentioned Lines & Madine; Prutton never got in the game, Buxton never got forward, Bywater never tried to hurl the ball out to JJ, instead kicking the ball aimlessly into the air on numerous occasions.

The news from the Galpharm did little to raise spirits but tonight was all about our own shortcomings. If that’s all we’ve got then we’ll be lucky to get in the playoffs.

It’s really disappointing writing about this team in a such a negative way after a largely impressive season. We are still third after all. But we demand that kind of thing from this set of players because of the high standards we have set ourselves.

We have no divine right to get in the Championship but this season, particularly at Hillsborough, we have played with the right mix of arrogance, tenacity and ability to win games and send other teams home battered and bruised.

A trip to Chesterfield awaits the beleaguered Owls

Tonight we welcomed Stevenage and their small band of loyal followers to Hillsborough, and allowed them to nick a win without so much as having to work for it.

Many people have said this month will prove pivotal in our season. Do we really want our next two games to be Chesterfield and Sheffield United?

We need to get out of this rut before it becomes season-defining. Surely we’ve worked too hard to give up when the going gets tough?

On Valentine’s Night, Wednesday have broken our hearts once again. Cupid Megson may need more than a bow and arrow to fire us back up the table.

There will be no love lost at the B2Net on Saturday that’s for sure.

Owls Alive
TWITTER: @OwlsAlive or @CraigSWFC

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