POST MATCH RAMBLE: Wednesday -v- Blackpool

POST MATCH RAMBLE: Wednesday -v- Blackpool

Going in to the Boxing Day clash with Blackpool on Friday there certainly wasn’t a great deal of optimism within S6 following recent results.

Back-to-back pre-Christmas defeats had seen the Owls fail to score in their previous two outings and concede five along the way. Although it is fair to say in the first of those encounters, against Wolves, we could and probably should’ve netted five for ourselves the first half was that one-sided.

The visit of Lee Clark’s men came at an ideal time for Wednesday as the Lancashire club are currently a club in turmoil following recent well-documented friction between Chairman Karl Oyston and members of the Blackpool fan base. On the pitch they aren’t fairing too well either with just 13 points to their name as the halfway point of the season arrived.

Lee Clarke

Lee Clarke; Blackpool’s ballast

Despite being the division’s basement outfit, the Tangerines certainly boasted a fair few names of note with Jamie O’ Hara, ex-Owl Chris Eagles and Ishmael Miller all being brought in by Clark to try and miraculously steady the rapidly sinking Seasider’s ship.

Prior to buying my maiden club programme of the season in search of the ‘Golden Ticket’ that was inserted inside one of the issues (did anyone actually find the ticket, by the way?), I didn’t fully appreciate the decent squad of players Lee Clark now at his disposal.

It was clear though from the names of those on the squad list on the back of the programme that a vast majority of the players inked on that line-up were either very young in-experienced players or those more towards the veteran end of the spectrum but were passed it or out of form.

With the players we have within our ranks there was no reason we shouldn’t be claiming three points come three o’clock, and comfortably.

Pre-match, I disagreed with Stuart Gray’s selection of Jose Semedo instead of Kieran Lee. Don’t get me wrong Semedo is a class act who is always guaranteed to wear his heart on his sleeve and give nothing short of 100% for the cause, but I just thought after the brilliant first-half in our last home game against Wolves Lee should’ve been given the nod over the Portuguese machine. Lee’s sharpness and creativity was something I personally thought we missed strongly throughout the duration of the contest.

Other than that I was content with the XI Gray had issued. In particular, it was refreshing to see Chris Maguire start up-front alongside fellow Scotsman Stevie May as the former had been in pursuit of an opportunity up top in an Owls’ shirt and finally his persistence had paid off.

Dielna Home Shirt

Dielna; clawed his way back into the team

Claude Dielna was also handed a starting berth following the injury to skipper Glenn Loovens. Despite his netbuster at Ewood Park earlier in the month, big Claude always strikes me as a player full of nerves and with a mistake not too far away from occurring.

It was good to see a bumper crowd in Hillsborough for our final home game of the calendar year with over 26,000 entering through the S6 turnstiles to witness the Owls’ first Boxing Day fixture on home soil since 2009. It was fair to say that the vast majority of those in attendance could see nothing but a Wednesday win on the horizon, which set for a strange atmosphere once the game had begun.

It was clear from the off that Blackpool weren’t prepared to lay down and be a beaten outfit as they frustrated us for long periods of the first half with chances few and far between for both sides.

Maguire went close with a free-kick early on as his right-footed effort from well outside the penalty area grazed the top of the net as it went out for a goal kick.

It was particularly annoying that we were playing a side that had been hit for six in their previous game and would undoubtedly have had their confidence shattered but we were failing to capitalise on that and put them under any significant pressure. Having said that we’d just been on the receiving end of a 4-0 spanking ourselves so both teams were wounded animals over the festive period.

Joe Louis

Not what he used to be

Stevie May saw our best chance of the opening exchanges after he was exquisitely put through by a delicious Royston Drenthe chipped through ball but the former was unable to comply with the finish as he lofted the ball high over the onrushing ‘keeper Joe Lewis and the Leppings Lane crossbar.

That short exchange of play kind of summed things up in recent games for SG’s men; Royston with the nonchalant bit of play but May failing to hit the onion bag with a lack of clinical prowess in front of goal.

There were a few instances of nice interchanges out wide on both wings with Palmer and Drenthe inter-linking well at times on one side with Mattock and Helan on the other flank causing the occasional problem for the Seasiders’ defence.

The visitors’ resilience lasted 38 minutes as Blackpool captain, Peter Clarke, felled Stevie May in the penalty area in a decision which some thought was contentious but for me it was a stone-waller as May was blatantly tripped by the former Huddersfield stopper. Lee Clark’s comments on the issue post-match seemed to be nothing short of frustration from the result rather than a fair assessment of the decision.

Maguire scores

Maguire: Cool as ya like

It was Maguire who stepped up to stroke into the corner his third goal of the season; a real kick in the teeth for the Lancastrians who knew they had a big task on their hands to get a much-needed win to help them in their desperate attempt to prevent what is a pretty certain plight into the third tier next season.

Typical of Wednesday though we offered the visitors a perfect chance to get straight back into the game and hope that they were far from out of the game as Tom Lees sold himself for former Wednesday loanee, Chris Eagles, who steamed into the box but agonisingly saw his shot just evade Keiran Westwood’s far post – to the relief of the healthily packed Kop end.

It would’ve been fair to reflect on that first half as anything but spectacular but the important fact of the matter was we’d got our name on the score sheet, a feat which has been well documented to be something we’ve struggled to do this season.

The second half started in a similar fashion to the first as Blackpool did a good job in closing us down and forcing us inside of our own half. We weren’t playing at our best but it wasn’t for the lack of trying, it just wasn’t one of those days when pretty football was on the agenda – especially with the state of the turf particularly under the South Stand.

We were digging in and doing what we had to do to get back to winning ways. Those who turned up expecting to see a Real Madrid-esque performance and a 5-0 whitewash were to be sadly mistaken as the result was the vital thing and we were doing the necessary dirty work to make sure a positive outcome was enabled.

We were unlucky not to double our advantage after 55 minutes as Maguire’s pull-back deflected inadvertently off Christie and thankfully for the latter onto Joe Lewis’ crossbar and away to safety.

Hand of God

A tacky Blackpool souvenir version

Lee Clark’s side were certainly putting up a considerable fight though and appeared to have grabbed themselves an equaliser when McMahon’s ball in for Miller was perfect and the ex-Yeovil frontman diverted the ball into the back of the net to the travelling Tangerines’ delight, only to be flagged by the linesman for the use of an arm. Miller’s ‘Hand of God’ certainly not on the same level as Maradona’s but the Seasiders would take any kind of goal at the moment.

Stevie May then came close again following an excellent right-wing delivery into the area and the Scotsman’s powerful header was superbly tipped around the post by Lewis who then kept out the ever-influential Lewis McGugan not long after.

But the best save of all was yet to come and there’s little surprise in who was the architect of nothing short of a world-class stop.

Or a blatantly lucky one but I like to think it was the former as many people will agree.

Another ball in from the right this time from Nathan Delfouneso saw an unmarked Miller looked nailed on to grab a vital equaliser for the men in black but from point-blank range his header cannoned back off the Irish shot-stopper before being hooked away by Palmer.

For all the world it looked as if we’d blown it again but yet again it was that man in goal who had saved the points for us and after being barely tested all game to pull out a stop like that it was hard not to stand up and applaud his heroics.

Westwood and Drenthe

Westwood and Drenthe: An exciting pair to watch

Drenthe then went on to get three sides of the ground ‘Oleing’ as he provided the freezing festive crowd with a meticulous bit of skill as he skipped past poor Darren O’Dea with ease as the Dutchman expertly dragged the ball back with one foot and pinged it off the other to propel forward into the space the helpless full-back had left. The resulting cross however was more Real Valladolid than Real Madrid but it was nice whilst it lasted.

In all seriousness though, I personally love the excitement, directness and pace Drenthe brings to our team and without a doubt he is our most significant threat. It’s been made public by the Reading faithful that they’re not avid fans of him down at the Madjeski so I wouldn’t think twice about trying to secure his services permanently in January, the only hitch could be that the Royals’ new man at the helm Steve Clarke may want him back to have a look at what he can offer them but hopefully him and McGugan will be made more long-term Sheffield Wednesday player in the not too distant future.

Miller was condemned to a second yellow card deep in stoppage time (the first of which being for the aforementioned handball incident) for a late lunge on Tom Lees which summed up an unfortunate day at the office for Blackpool, which is an all too familiar feeling for the Tangerines at the moment.

The performance was far from perfect and was at times pretty dire but I’m now going to insert one of the biggest clichés in football to try and quieten the moaners coming out of S6 last night: It’s a results-based business. I’m as desperate as anyone to turn up to Hillsborough and see us destroy our opposition by a hat-full of goals but as long as we get the three points and move on and improve in the next game nothing else is of major significance.

Plus, we had several opportunities to build on our lead and had we got that second goal then the floodgates may possibly have opened but the good thing is chances are now being made rather than the situation we had at Hillsborough we had at the start of the season where we were struggling to carve out anything clear-cut.

Stuart Gray pensive

Hmmm

Stuart Gray said post-Fulham that the Blackpool game was a must-win and we were successful in carrying out the job in hand, it was obvious the players were giving it as much as they’d got but so were Blackpool who are without a doubt fighting for their lives!

Quality was minimal and that is understandably going to frustrate Wednesdayites but we can look forward to ending 2014 nine places higher in the league table than we were at the start of it. Let’s hope we can end the year with three points on Tuesday at Wigan and go to into round two of the Etihad full of confidence that we won’t be on the end of another 7-0 reality check!

Happy new year to all Wednesdayites and here’s to another turbulent but progressive 12 months at Hillsborough.

UTO!

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

Twitter: @JonOwlzz and @OwlsAlive


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