RAMBLE: Wednesday 2-1 Blackburn Rovers
The month in which it can all Come Together or seem like The End.
With every passing game, the ludicrous nature of football support can foretell two contrasting scenarios.
Comfortable win, results go your way; “promotion, here we come!”
Sluggish performance, disappointing result; “meh – another year of the Championship!”
Wednesday fans, after two wins on the bounce, sit somewhere between the two.
The clean-sheet victories against Wigan and Birmingham have moved us into a comfortable position in the top six, without offering sparkling, entertaining football.
But February, the oh-so-important season-defining month, is simply about results.
Winning, by whatever means necessary, has to come first.
And to cast your eye down our fixture list this month, no game stands out as an obvious game that will serve as an advert for the best of second tier football. Nothing jumps out as ‘humdinger’, ‘one for the neutral’ or even ‘probably worth going to.’
In particular, a home game against struggling Blackburn Rovers.
Blackburn Rovers and their team of seven foot big chuffers.
Blackburn Rovers and their notoriously dull manager, Owen Coyle.
I’ve quite enjoyed our midweek home fixtures this season.
Working Saturday nights makes everything a rush. I haven’t been able to enjoy the games (has anyone?) as I’m always thinking about legging it to the car park after the full-time whistle.
I’ve missed a couple of key goals – the Forest winner springs to mind – because I’m already lamenting my fitness as I hobble across the Napoleon’s car park.
Tuesdays come with a more relaxed approach as it’s one of my days off.
Not this week, though. Having spent my day frustrated at tourists – school holiday tourists, the very worst tourists – I pelted home at gone five o’clock, threw a ready meal down my neck and set off for Hillsborough.
I have no patience in traffic.
You probably sit there patiently.
There’s always a quicker way.
But the ‘quicker way’ never lives up to its name-tag and so I apologise to my Grandad after we sit in the University island roadworks for half an hour.
It does, however, give us a chance to talk all things Wednesday.
We’re both pretty content. Our good run – eight wins in fourteen – and the prospect of a few more goals in the team is leaving us optimistic.
We agree that Tom Lees is a much needed stabilising presence at the back. He thinks that Loovens is looking a little shaky of late and I repeat my dislike for all things Vincent Sasso.
Consecutive clean sheets or not, Lees is our most consistent player. We need him.
Lees: important we have him for his best years
I suggest that Forestieri took some unfair flak for his performance against Birmingham. His disappointment at being substituted is surely a positive thing, too?
Wanting to play and affect the game has to be the very first attribute on a player’s card.
After his early season petulance, fans will look to nail him for any slight flaw or weakness.
Carvalhal seemingly agreed with the fans: Forestieri would be the only change to the side that beat City on Friday.
The opening minutes of the game set the tone for the first half.
Rovers forced an early corner as Wednesday struggled to keep possession of the ball. The corner, the first of five won by Blackburn, was comfortably defended.
In fact, Blackburn did very little of note during the first half despite holding the ball for long periods.
Their out ball was Sam Gallagher, who pulled on to the left flank to beat Jack Hunt to a number of headers.
Wednesday would eventually regain possession only to give it away cheaply.
The fans were impatient to see good, flowing, attacking football. Groans would become more audible as the ball was passed back, and even more so if the ball was forced forward and lost.
It has to be said that there was very little movement from the front two, who having chased down possession frequently, could not get on the ball in the Rovers half.
Rhodes: had little to work with
Wallace and Hunt were two brighter sparks in possession, with Reach and Fox mostly absent on the far side.
Questions around team mentality would surface again as Sam Hutchinson often dropped into the defensive line with the team looking to go forward.
But successful, ultimately.
The mood was a little tetchy inside Hillsborough as Wednesday continued to surrender cheap possession. The fans, on both the Kop and the North Stand, were in a solemn mood.
Even the lone voice of Tango was not audible on a still Sheffield night.
The first chance would fall to Wednesday. Sasso ignored Hutchinson to his left and strode out of defence, picking a good ball to Wallace, who turned, and fed Rhodes.
The new signing set the ball with his first touch to Winnall, who hit it –
Winnall then won a free-kick on the edge of the box, for Wallace to stand over.
Steele, in the Rovers goal, looked uncomfortable as he positioned his wall and stood central to his six yard area.
He looked a good deal more uncomfortable as Wallace lashed the free-kick straight against the bar.
This was better from Wednesday. Rovers still had more of the ball but The Owls were now moving it quicker and finding spaces on the edge of the box. At times, Coyle’s men looked to be rolling out the red carpet for the Wednesday midfield.
This time, Bannan stood over it as both angle and distance were against the shooting option.
The bookies made a killing on first goalscorer bets here, I bet.
Bannan congratulates Sasso
Easy as you like, Bannan swings the ball over to the back post, where the unmarked Sasso had around a fortnight to stroke the ball into the roof of the net!
I’ve always said he is a good player, deserved more game time, and is a more than able replacement…
Or not, but I was certainly enjoying this.
Not playing particularly well but winning. The February Formula.
And now for the Wednesday Formula – making games needlessly difficult.
While we were watching another replay of the goal, Charlie Mulgrew launched a ball forward that should have been claimed by Westwood.
A combination of poor communication and Morgan Fox’s 50 pence head ensured that Rovers would have their second corner.
Not at his best last night
The ball was floated over and cannoned in off Sam Hutchinson, who seemed to wait for the ball rather than attacking it with any intention of clearing it.
1-1, then. The crowd responded to encourage Wednesday for all of thirty seconds, before the inevitable groans re-surfaced when the ball went backwards.
Hutchinson, for the first time this season, was having a bit of mare.
It would get worse too, as he left a high foot on Gallagher. The yellow card he received could and probably should have been red. It was a shocking effort, borne of his wild frustration.
If in doubt Sam, leave your opponent needing twelve stitches.
Gallagher took treatment for seven minutes and was stretchered off. This killed the first half; Blackburn would no longer go anywhere near the Wednesday goal.
Wednesday, fortuitously, would retake the lead.
It was a lovely goal too. Set-pieces are now the vol-au-vents to the tika-taka caviar but, let’s be right: nothing, absolutely nothing beats a centre-half rising to a meet a whipped corner.
Incredibly, it would be Sasso again! “Waste of a shirt, that lad.”
I’m sorry Vincent. All is forgiven.
HALF-TIME: WEDNESDAY 2-1 ROVERS
Luck, judgement, or both: Wednesday had shaded the first half but it was immeasurably dull, despite the three goals.
Hutchinson, now carrying a knock, should have been replaced at half-time but it was Morgan Fox who made way. He had struggled a little – his poor clearing header led to the Rovers goal and his positioning had let Mahoney in for their other half-chance.
Forestieri came on and Reach moved to left back.
Wednesday looked light in midfield during the second half as Hutchinson hobbled across the pitch for the best part of half an hour.
Our strength now lay on the flanks and on the counter.
The first opportunity came from a foul on Forestieri. He quickly set the ball and released Bannan, with the Blackburn midfielder caught out by Fernando’s keenness to get on with things.
Bannan was away, with Forestieri joining him – Wednesday had four on four – but Bannan chose the shot with two better placed options.
It wasn’t a night to remember for Bannan, although he did claim the assist for the first goal.
Sasso scores his second
He was guilty of giving the ball away on numerous occasions in his own half. Forestieri, Reach and Hutchinson were equally guilty – Hutchinson especially, whose terrible back-heel flick almost released Craig Conway on the edge of the Wednesday box.
Bannan did play one excellent pass: Forestieri had turned Akpan nicely in the centre circle, lent the ball to the Scot, who returned it. His lashed shot into the bottom corner was well placed, but the offside flag came to Rovers’ rescue.
Steven Fletcher came on for Winnall and David Jones finally replaced Hutchinson as Wednesday looked to see the game out.
Reach would twice find himself in behind following passes from Wallace and Forestieri, but on neither occasion could he find a striped shirt in the box.
The nerves began to jangle as the cold began to bite.
As favourable scorelines came in from around the country – remember, we would be the last game to finish after seven minutes were added in the first period – it looked like the inevitable equaliser might come for Rovers.
Firstly, Westwood made a terrific double save: first parrying from Emnes, and then closing down a belated follow up with his defenders stranded by a floated cross.
Emnes added flashes of quality up against a tiring Owls side. None more so than his 25-yard shot that rattled the bar and disturbed the paint of the goal-line.
Wednesday really do have the woodwork to thank this week. Some voices to my right on the North Stand claimed it had indeed gone over, the Sky replay is inconclusive from gantry angle.
Owen Coyle could perhaps feel hard done to on this one, but his qualms with the drama that was to follow are baseless.
Hope Akpan handled the ball after Reach (somewhat stupidly, it has to be said) headed the ball straight at him on the edge of the Wednesday box.
The whistle had sounded before the ball hit the back of the net, and Scott Duncan appeared to have made the right decision.
Fairly lenient overall, but the referee would not let Akpan’s raised arms go.
Centre of attention? Absolutely, Akpan was foolish to raise his arms, but the referee’s audition for Bambi on Ice will surely not go unnoticed with the Disney powers that be.
FULL-TIME: WEDNESDAY 2-1 ROVERS
Job done. Forest, we’re coming for you
Meh. You won’t hear me complaining about a home win, ever.
That was bloody dull though.
Bring back Megson.
Forget it, bring back relegation battles.
At least they were exciting.
Promotion? Not bothered.
TWITTER: @OwlsAlive and @hugh_wragg