RAMBLE: Wednesday 2-0 Barnsley

RAMBLE: Wednesday 2-0 Barnsley

This was a night where a couple of scripts had been written.

Either:

George Hirst comes on to bag a winner against the club his legendary father signed from, or;

Paul Heckingbottom returns to Hillsborough to mastermind an end to Barnsley’s hoodoo against his former club.

For once I was pessimistic. I’d spent the weekend convincing myself that we were going to lose this.  The Tykes had picked back up again after a mini rough patch.

They were scoring goals… good ones… and plenty of them, from all over the park.

My pre-match prediction was a 1-0 loss.  Tommy (mini me) went for a draw but Richard, my colleague and good friend who joined us in the car for the journey down from Grenoside, went for a comfortable win.

 

B-minus: Could do better?

 

As part of my role at school (I’m a teacher with extra leadership responsibilities) I’d spent the morning scrutinising children’s books.

Checking that progress was being made across all year groups and that policies were being adhered to.

I imagine most teachers hate the memo that comes around to say that this is taking place, but it really does provide a great insight into an overall picture of how things are going.

Bear with me… I haven’t got my emails mixed up… this is an OwlsAlive ramble… promise.

Anyway, as I was carrying out this task – maybe with half a mind towards the evening events – I began relating the experience to football.  What would Carlos’ half term report look like? Was progress evident across a sustained period of time? Were club policies being followed? In short… are we getting better?

Expectations are different this term

Expectations are different this term

Now, anyone that read my last ramble will know that I haven’t been too enthralled by the Owls this season.

I still hold the belief that we’ll make the playoffs, though I’m a little disappointed by what I’m seeing.

As a teacher, it’s the equivalent to seeing a child who had been struggling all through their school life… scraping Ds –  suddenly make loads of progress one year, only to plateau the next year and end up getting straight Bs instead of the As we’d hoped for.

So, unlike some of my fellow, more vociferous, Owls; I’m quite happy at the moment in acknowledging the steady… almost unnoticeable progress since last term, given the huge strides we’d made the year before.

 

 

PRE-MATCH

 

As it was a night match we forewent the usual visit to the pub, parked up the car near five arches and had a walk down Herries Road.

Given the December mist, the glow from Hilllsborough had a strange, ephemeral, aurora-like quality to it; adding to the atmosphere of a Tuesday night derby match between two decent yet erratic teams.

Hillsborough by night

Hillsborough by night

It really was set up nicely.

Changes to the Owls line up were as expected.  Fletcher coming in for Nuhiu and Pudil making a return at left back allowing Reach to push forward.  Palmer also returned for a sick Hunt (careful…)

The match itself began as you’d expect.

End to end, high octane stuff… Fans sparring with an early clutch of pre-rehearsed songs that they couldn’t wait to fire at each other.

“Feed the Dingles” had a festive tilt to it… the stock retort of “dee-dar-dee-dar” was as expected as it was ironic.

It took a good twenty minutes for the travelling fans to realise they’d got a trump card on us and a chorus of “We won at Wem-ber-leee” admittedly touched a nerve.

"Small town in Sheffield..."

“Small town in Sheffield…”

This all added to a great derby atmosphere.

It was tense.  Bannan seemed to think he had half a second longer than he had with the ball at his feet and his range was way off.

Joao began the match looking like he was wearing a lead scarf, tumbling and hitting the deck at any given opportunity.

Their young winger Kent easily had the better of Palmer, and for the first 20 minutes we were losing the midfield battle as Barnsley attacked with purpose, rolling it across our back line and finding the gaps.

This very nearly paid off midway through the half as one of their players… forget who… found himself clear on goal at the edge of the box.

Hearts filled gobs for a moment, until Westwood demonstrated the kind of assured game he was about to have by rushing out and forcing the player into a snap shot which was blocked with the Irishman’s flailing legs. A let off.

 

Against the run of play

 

When the breakthrough came, it was an odd one.

A cross flung into the box was met by Joao.

From where I was at the foot of the North stand, it looked like Fletcher got a toe to it and the ball bobbled in to the net.

Hillsborough erupted. But in my pessimistic state I couldn’t celebrate at first… why weren’t the players going barmy? My eyes flicked to the lino… no, he seems happy with it.  Ref? He’s running back to the centre with arms aloft…

Joao meets the cross

Joao meets the cross

GOOOOAAAAL… I joined in the celebration, albeit a tad muted and delayed.

The goal was announced and accredited to Joao just as the Sky sports push notification buzzed through to my phone to inform me that it was a MacDonald own goal…

Now the muted celebrations made sense.

Now we seemed to have a grip on things.

Reach was having arguably his best game for us… He was everywhere, roaming across the line behind the front two and tracking back with purpose.

He looked a lot like a young, dare I say, Chris W- no.  Not yet.

Hutchinson was also making his mark.

In my last ramble, I lamented his one-footedness and made a case for him to be redrafted into the centre, with Loovens to come in and redress the imbalance in the defence.

I’m glad that this has since happened and that the team looks better with him in the centre.

In fact, it was Hutchinson who was at the centre of the other two significant moments in a typically frenetic derby.

 

“Red card? For who? I don’t know Jeff”

 

His goal, sweeping in the second ball from a corner, was swiftly followed by yet another piece of odd officiating to be witnessed at Hillsborough.

Goal!

Goal!

As a ball broke loose at the edge of the Owls’ box, Hutch saw the red mist and went flying in to a tackle.

From my position, it was nailed on… I turned to my dad, “He’s off.”

Sure enough the ref waded in and thrust the red card in Hutch’s face.

The scoreboard confirmed Sam’s dismissal and we began discussing how he’d be a big miss against Newcastle.

Then the extraordinary happened.  It soon occurred to us that it was OUR free kick… what?! Had something happened before Sam’s moment of indiscretion? An offside?

The red card against his name on the scoreboard suddenly disappeared, and although it was hard to make out against the red background on the scoreboard, the tiny crimson square now appeared beside Adam Hammill’s name.

A quick glance around the pitch confirmed it… Sam was still there, Barnsley had ten men… Get in!

That was it.

Ten minutes to go. Two up. A man up.

The game was won.

Man of the match performance

Man of the match performance

Sure enough we made easy pickings of the rest of the game, sweeping the ball around and carving the odd opportunity.

Big Dave had a couple of chances to kill the game, but we won’t dwell on his misses, he played a good part in his cameo this week.

Richard was right then.

The score-line looked more convincing than the performance, but how often this season has the reverse been true?

So, we continue our excellent home record against Barnsley and look forward to a game against our other close neighbours, who despite their flailing fortunes this season you have to worry about given their past performances against us and an interim manager brimming with enthusiasm.

I’ll go for a 2-1 win.

Joe
Owls Alive
E-MAIL: owlsalive@gmail.com
Twitter: @OwlsAlive and @GrenoOwl

Images: SWFC


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