POST MATCH RAMBLE: Wednesday -v- Millwall

POST MATCH RAMBLE: Wednesday -v- Millwall

As a Wednesdayite, over the summer break it’s been hard to escape the turmoil that has been occurring behind the scenes at S6.

A lack of transfer activity; a lingering takeover that seems to have take. forever to complete; and a farce in the manufacturing department as new home shirts have been out of stock in the megastore for weeks following on from the successful ‘Owls in the Park’ event.

However, just like I was hoping would happen, the football started doing the talking. Our impressive results thus far this season against Brighton, Notts County and Derby have been a reflection of the hard work, preparation and most noticeably confidence Stuart Gray has instilled into our pretty slender squad.

After attending all three games one thing that struck me was our quality and composure on the ball, especially in our opening day success on the south coast where we maintained possession as well I’ve seen a Wednesday side do in recent years whilst holding a slender advantage.

The professional and calm manner in which we saw the game out against the Seagulls was refreshing to see and really gave me room for optimism that this side is a team full of talented footballers; all good with the ball and each looking cool-headed when in possession.

Jacques Maghoma celebrates putting Wednesday 1-0 up

Maghoma and Nuhiu in form

Our professionalism was again noticeable in our Capital One Cup clash against County just three days later. We avoided a potential banana skin impressively and at ease with a 3-0 victory that saw Maghoma, Madine and Nuhiu all importantly get on the scoresheet; all players who seemed like only a goal or two was required to improve their confidence and consequently performance levels.

What was equally pleasing to see was opposition manager, Sean Derry, compliment the team and refer to us as a ‘quality’ side – and he’s not been the only one to comment on our performances in recent games either.

Having held our own against promotion candidates Derby County at Hillsborough on Saturday, I was eagerly anticipating our latest challenge on home soil – a contest with Ian Holloway’s much improved Millwall outfit. They had collected maximum points from their two games, seeing them joint top going into the game under the floodlights at S6.

One change was made from the draw against the Rams at the weekend; Kieran Lee being forced with injury to make way for Jose Semedo to come in for his first league start of the campaign. Fortunately, we boast strength in depth in the middle of the field so the Lee injury wasn’t any great inconvenience to Gray’s plans compared to if it was a forward who had been ruled out of the game.

Ian Holloway

Ian Holloway: Improving the Lions

Arriving a couple of minutes after kick-off, I took my seat in the North Stand and immediately noticed the tactics Holloway had employed on his side with high-pressing being a prominent feature of the Lions’ off-ball work.

Our composure on the ball was knocked a wee bit as we struggled to maintain possession as the Londoners hunted us in packs of two or three at a time and ultimately forcing us to play it long towards Atdhe Nuhiu and more often than not we ended up losing the ball to Millwall’s comanding defensive pairing of ex-Owl Mark Beevers and Lions’ skipper Alan Dunne who were both shielded by the particularly impressive Shaun Williams who seemed to intercept the majority of things that came his way.

Nuhiu and Tom Lees (who hasn’t personally surprised me with his high level of performance in our opening games and it’s been no coincidence he’s been in the Owls rearguard in the first three games where we’ve kept cleen sheets) both had free headers from corners fail to hit the back of the net; the latter’s was saved by David Forde whilst Nuhiu’s effort cleared the crossbar when he should’ve really done better.

At the other end, Martyn Woolford went close for the Lions with a right-footed curler that beat Keiren Westwood in the Owls’ goal but unfortunately for Millwall also beat the crossbar and ended up going into the Wednesday Kop.

The hosts then had appeals for a penatly turned down by referee, Nigel Miller, as Jacques Maghoma tried cutting inside in the area and saw the ball seem to cannon off the arm of a Millwall defender but Miller wasn’t willing to point to the spot.

In the early embers of the second half if was the visitors who had the lion’s share of possession and looked more comfortable on the ball. Their early second period dominance, however, came to no avail as the home side were awarded a free-kick 20 yards from goal that was situated in a decent shooting position.

Chris Maguire celebrates goal Millwall 2014

Maguire gives Wednesday the lead

The ever impressive Chris Maguire obliged with the deadball situation and struck a low right-footed effort through a poor Millwall wall, past the helpless Forde and into the bottom corner to send the Kop into a state of great jubilence.

Chances were few and far between on both sides but as the game went on we looked as though we may get the opportunity to counter attack our opposition from the Capital, however, a resolute visiting defence refused to concede another Wednesday goal.

Our defence was holding very firm though and the only scare we had going into the final ten minutes was what seemed a painful back injury to the brilliant Sam Hutchinson, hopefully his scan today won’t see any major damage caused to the recent recruit from Chelsea.

It was in the dying embers when the tension inside the ground significantly grew and with it so did the atmosphere inside Hillsborough.

On 83 minutes, winger Lee Martin went into a 50/50 challenge with Westwood inside the penalty area and the latter was adjudged to have clattered Martin in a decision which seemed extremely harsh on the Wednesday keeper who, if anything, seemed to come off worse in the incident.

A yellow card was brandished to Westwood by Mr Miller and Williams (who for me was Millwall’s most impressive performer) stepped up to penalty duty to face our highly popular new number one in between the sticks.

Williams, so reliable in his days at MK Dons from 12 yards, saw his low left-footed penalty strike the base of the post before Liam Palmer cleared away for a corner; certainly a let off for the Owls but I couldn’t help but think we’d have to weather one last storm before the points were ours.

Stevie May Jumping

The Industrious Stevie May had a penalty appeal waved away

Our fans then appealed for a spot kick of our own when Stevie May felt Forde had fouled him from behind, however I didn’t see this incident so wouldn’t be able to comment although it didn’t stop me appealing with the other 20,000 Wednesdayites in the stadium!

The last few minutes of the five added on where nail-biting to say the least, were we about to go joint top of the league?! Unfortunately disaster struck with just ten seconds remaining of the game following a swift Millwall counter attack.

The ball was cleared to the right-hand side and Carlos Edwards who skipped past a committed Jeremy Helan before playing in a low ball to substitute Ricardo Fuller. The well-traveled Jamaican veteran coolly turned on the ball and laid it back for Magaye Gueye who sold three Wednesday players by cutting inside and unleashing a fierce stopping time equaliser into the roof of Westwood’s goal sending the few hundred traveling Millwall fans into raptures.

As far as I’m concerned I agree with the wide consensus that a point for both side was probably a fair result. However, had the penalty (which I believe shouldn’t have been a penalty) wasn’t given then we wouldn’t have required the five minutes stoppage time and therefore proably wouldn’t have shipped in a last minute goal to see us not only lose two points but also our perfect clean sheet record. Having said that, having the record of being the last team in the entire Football League to concede a goal is a positive credit to boast as a team.

Credit where it's due

Credit where it’s due

Overall, it was a great point for us to take into another tough outfit in Middlesbrough on Saturday at the Riverside Stadium, although you can’t help but wish we had 7 points on the board rather than 5. However, that statement is just a testament to Stuart Gray and the job he’s done over the summer to get us playing the way we are at the moment.

It took us until October to get us this current tally of points last season so hopefully with a better start and mid-season form like we managed under SG last term we’ll be able to push for at least a top half finish this campaign.

UTO!

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Jonathan Bell
Owls Alive
E-mail: admin@owlsalive.com

Twitter: @jonowlzz and @OwlsAlive


2 Comments

  1. Johnathan

    I must compliment you on this excellent and unbias view of events on Tuesday night. Although, I was not at the game from all accounts a draw seemed a fair result.

    My team Millwall like yourselves are in a period of transition following last season. Both our clubs appear to have committed, honest and hard working managers who have made good progress for their respected clubs from when they took over.

    If I am honest Millwall due to the size of the club and the financial constraints will probably never be able to sustain a Premiership Team. The best we can hope for is a strong Championship side. Nevertheless, we can dream. As for yourselves, your support which I have always found knowledgeable and friendly on my visits to Hillsborough deserve to be in the Premiership.

    Hopefully, we may both be there next season. Although, avoiding relegation comfortably has to be the Lions first objective after the last 2 seasons. Nevertheless, I wish you well for the campaign with the exception of obtaining no points from the Den.

  2. Apologies

    I have just realised this should have been addressed to Steve.

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