POST MATCH RAMBLE: Wednesday -v- Huddersfield Town

POST MATCH RAMBLE: Wednesday -v- Huddersfield Town

Within ten minutes of dragging myself out of bed on Saturday morning I’d managed to stub my toe (twice), walk into a door and get eggshell in my breakfast.

It was all downhill from there.

I might as well have stayed at home and tackled one of my two essays for next week – I’d have had a more fulfilling afternoon.

My pre-conceptions were confirmed when I ascended the North Stand stairs to see the biggest of omens – the return of the Sheffield Wednesday Community Dance Troupe. I swore under my breath.

We just DO NOT win when they perform.

Changes were rung by Dave Jones from the Derby match, and rightly so. A terrible performance and 3-0 reverse somewhat forced his hand, but I was glad to see an opportunity for Joe Mattock; Jose Semedo came back into midfield with Olofinjana dropping out of the squad altogether, and Miguel Llera taking the place of the injured Kamil Zayatte.

Step into my office: You’re cut

The big news however was the dropping of Chris Kirkland.

Player of the season so far, Kirkland has kept us in plenty of games that we could have lost. Yet we haven’t kept a clean sheet all season and it was for this reason, according to Dave Jones in his post-match press conference, that Kirkland made way for Arsenal loanee Damien Martinez.

Puzzling.

It didn’t take long for Martinez to lose his clean sheet. Wednesday were forced straight onto the back foot with the influential Adam Clayton pulling the strings from the middle of midfield. Huddersfield had won just one of their last eight but looked a team full of energy, confidence and urgency. Wednesday did not. Norwood, Clayton, Paterson, goal. Tidy work on the edge of the box drew Roger Johnson and Llera out of position and Wednesday were behind. That all too familiar feeling was back.

Wednesday were devoid of ideas with the ball and stroked it (slowly) across the banks of four before the inevitable punt forward, relinquishing possession. Without the ball we lacked shape, showed little-or-no determination to win it back or pressure the Huddersfield midfielders.

Individuals were getting caught too, particularly Stephen McPhail who was left wanting on numerous occasions, either by giving the ball away or allowing space to develop in behind our midfield. The space between our back four was huge, and despite their best efforts neither Connor Wickham nor Matty Fryatt could get into the game. Lewis Buxton, Mr Dependable, was caught out of position on a few occasions, and Michail Antonio just didn’t look arsed – the young winger gave the ball away frequently, ran into his man on a couple of occasions, and his tracking back down the Huddersfield left was very poor. I was swearing again.

He fell over

The biggest cheer of the first half was for Mr East – who had a fair game with the whistle – when he dramatically tumbled to the ground after stepping on the ball.

Wednesday forced little of note in the first half, Mattock got under an effort from 25 yards sending it into Leppings Lane, and Jose Semedo sliced one several yards wide.

Half time couldn’t come soon enough.

HALF TIME – OWLS 0 HUDDERSFIELD 1

I was wishing I’d taken my hip flask, we were all in need of a tonic after that. The return of the Dance Troupe told me worse was to come in the second half. At least Dave Jones responded to my need for a drink, offering up a JJ+Coke for Antonio and McPhail.

Dave’s cocktail did add some fire to the bellies of Wednesday who did show a little more urgency after the break. Coke and Johnson both provided driving runs, while Buxton and Mattock began to overlap and fashion some decent spells of intricate football on the flanks. The final ball came too, from an unlikely source: Jermaine Johnson put a few good quality crosses on the six yard line, but neither Matty Fryatt nor Connor Wickham could quite latch on. It was definitely an improvement right up until Huddersfield doubled their lead on 68 minutes.

Actually, they should have done it sooner – a Paul Dixon shot cannoned straight to James Vaughan, who had to score from eight yards – and somehow sliced it wide. It really was a terrible miss. No matter though, as five minutes later the impressive Clayton made sure. He rifled a low half volley across Martinez after Oliver Norwood’s initial effort was blocked. I swore again, loudly.

So did many others, in fact. The dreaded ‘sacked in the morning’ chant came from the Town fans, and many Owls on the North Stand joined in. Bar-steward, tee-wat, and other such niceties rained down on Jones who stood, arms folded, in his usual position. And now for the first time since many said around a year ago that Jones isn’t up to the job, I’m beginning to wonder myself.

Small consolation

There was around 25 minutes to go in this one though, but I was well and truly fed up. As I looked on and considered our squad, finances, ongoing lack of clarity at board level and dropping attendances (19,000 here for the derby), the ‘r’ word went through my head a couple of times.

Jacques Maghoma came on for the first time in twelve years and managed to provide a carbon copy of all his other Owls performances. All that was left now was for Wickham to drill home a low free-kick on ’92, after Alex Smithies smartly saved a previous effort. Peep-peep-peep, more boos. More Jones-directed vitriol.

FULL TIME – WEDNESDAY 1-2 HUDDERSFIELD TOWN

The gaffer was then ushered down the tunnel by a protective ring of stewards. If you need protection from your own, it’s not looking good. That poisonous Hillsborough atmosphere was back. At the time of writing however, Milan Mandaric has revealed that Dave Jones will be in charge for the Blackpool game next Saturday. We wait with bated breath.

This was a poor game in truth and I’m not really sure either side deserved to win. Huddersfield had the better of it, playing the better football – especially so in the first half – but their goals were gifted to them, and aside from Vaughan’s glaring miss, Town created little. As did Wednesday. Not a great advert for Championship football, then.

Positives? None really, a couple of players put in a fair shift: Semedo, Mattock, Helan and WiFry, as did Martinez who did fairly well on his first league start. Apart from a few indifferent individual performances, I suppose the only other positive is that we didn’t get mullered. Hmph.

I’m not going into the great detail of our current situation, enough has been written by me, others on OwlsAlive (see Danny vs The Dark Cloud), and the Wednesday fan base in general for us all to understand the most fundamental issues. A quick run-down then of how I see us currently:

It’s a blame game

Milan Mandaric has to start taking responsibility. For all the long-term vision rhetoric and Premier League aims that he talks of, the way we amble between transfer windows on a life-support of loanees and free transfers that no other club want is not good enough. The lack of clarity over where we stand in terms of a takeover is also creating a nervous atmosphere around the club – only he can change that. And now we have another loan charge secured against Hillsborough; nobody knows why, for how much, or where the money is coming from.

Yes, Milan is a businessman looking to sell, and as such is reluctant to add further cash. But the money lost from another relegation would seriously hamper his chances of making a profit out of the club.

We have a squad that is amongst the bottom three or four of this division. We also have a financial set-up that ranks us similarly. Compared to other clubs in the division, we simply don’t have the capability to attract the top players. Having said that it’s difficult to argue against the idea that Dave Jones has done poorly in the transfer market, even taking into account the limited resources at his disposal.

I do feel however that Jones is in a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ situation with regards match-day set-ups at the moment. But unfortunately, that’s the nature of his job and he is judged by the decisions he makes. Two games in succession he’s gone for a 4-4-2 formation that has seen our midfield dominated. The Reading game, instead of being the kick-start, now reads as just a blip on an otherwise woefully poor results card.

I’m tired of vouching for a manager who has delivered one win all season, introduced in-excess of twenty new players in 20 months in charge – and cast many of them upon the scrapheap, offering little or no explanation. 11 points from a possible 45 is just not good enough. We need someone who will take this squad back to basics, and install a bit of urgency, determination, and steel into their performances. Jones can be that man, but he really has to take this situation by the nads and start taking some serious responsibility.

I’m now totally indifferent to what happens next, to be quite honest. If Jones was to go tomorrow, I’d understand. The list of potential replacements however is the same tried and tested – or tired and tested – bunch of Dowies, Curbishleys and the like, sprinkled with the curveball Karl Robinsons and very left-field suggestions of Carbone and Di Canio.

Oh no! Not again?

But why go back to square one for the sake of another manager who offers no guarantees of survival?

Why spend all that money putting Jones on gardening leave for another bloke to work with the same group of players?

Let’s hope that the meeting on Saturday evening between Chairman and Manager was productive.

Let’s hope they’ve put a plan in place. We’ve got a chance while we – and I include the fans, players and even the sodding Dance Troupe in this – are all together and striving towards the same future for this club.
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Cheers
Hugh
Owls Alive
Twitter: @owlsalive @hugh_wragg
E-MAIL: admin@owlsalive.com


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