RAMBLE | Wednesday 1-1 Sunderland

RAMBLE | Wednesday 1-1 Sunderland

Ah, the first proper night match of the season.

No disrespect to Chesterfield, or to the League Cup, but this is the evening showdown we were looking forward to.

A bustling Hillsborough, two strong sides, the prospect of Wednesday playing on Wednesday.

Lovely stuff.

Our Tuesday night off allowed us to take in some other sporting fayre: Hoffenheim vs Liverpool in the latest episode of How On Earth Can Clubs of This Calibre Allowing Defending This Poor To Happen Every Week, while Sky were showing the t20 cricket.

Derbyshire beat Northern Group fodder Durham in Derby and, having skittled Yorkshire home and away, look set to qualify for the quarter finals.

Back in familiar territory, results came in from elsewhere in the Championship. Cardiff, Ipswich and Wolves maintained their 100% starts, while Leeds and Fulham shared a draw at Elland Road.

Not that the early fixtures offer much indication as to a team’s prospects.

Except where Wednesday are concerned, seemingly.

Somehow, this had become a must-win game for Carlos Carvalhal among certain sections of the Owls’ support.

Obviously, this is rubbish.

Raising legitimate concerns with the way the club is run, and airing criticism of Carlos’ management of the team is fine, but to suggest that such sweeping changes were necessary is so far wide of the mark.

 

PRE-MATCH

 

I’ve been looking forward to a Sunderland game for the best part of five years.

Having lived with a Sunderland fan for three, taking in their consecutive Christ We’re Shocking But Just About Safe seasons, I’d be frequently reminding him that a visit to Hillsborough would soon be in his diary.

Then we parted ways and suddenly Wednesday became good!

In April and May of Carlos’ first season, it looked like a Premier League meeting was possible.

At the end of last term, you’d be forgiven for thinking we were swapping divisions altogether.

Sunderland: due a visit?

The penalty shootout defeat to Huddersfield offered one slight crumb of comfort, then, I’d finally got my Sunderland wish.

While I was looking forward to playing the Black Cats, a Wednesday night offered limited opportunity for pre and post-match beverages, so we decided to postpone.

Easter Monday, the return fixture, looks much more suitable.

Sunderland looked a functional but not sparkling side against Derby. I then missed their 3-1 victory over Norwich and was slightly taken aback by the score after watching their curtain raiser.

I’d hoped that this fixture might provide the ignition Wednesday’s season so badly needs.

Carlos should have no problem motivating his side against one of the other big boys; the fans would be up for it; hopefully Sunderland would come out and play, giving Wednesday space in behind.

Forestieri: would he be in the sqaud?

We’d brought my brother along to this one. Formerly known as ‘The Curse’, a tag which became redundant as soon as Wednesday started winning the majority of their games.

He’d already seen the Chesterfield game, which he was unimpressed with.

Our Wednesday routine is minimal these days and, with catch-up and midweek boozing cancelled, it was my turn to drive.

Parking up was straight forward thanks to the absence of dog-racing at Owlerton – more fixtures on Wednesday, please – and we were soon in our seats and discussing the team news.

Loovens, Hutchinson (both fitness) and Rhodes (dropped) made way for Abdi, Winnall and Jones in a restructured line-up.

Pudil shifted to centre-half, Reach to left-back, while the midfield organised itself into the diamond we saw against Chesterfield and QPR.

 

THE MATCH

 

The Sunderland fans were in fine voice as Waterfront greeted the teams.

With the result of the toss unclear, Wednesday’s preferred choice of kicking towards the Kop in the second half held.

Hi-Ho was belted out with the usual gusto and we were away.

The first two minutes were full-blooded.

Hunt found himself crippled after losing a fifty-fifty challenge which claimed the match-ball as its victim.

After a lengthy delay, and more than a few murmurs of ‘another defender gone’, Our Jack was ready to re-enter proceedings.

Just after Wednesday had gone a goal down.

Honeyman

The Owls gave the ball away cheaply under the side of the North Stand where Hunt received his treatment.

A simple one-two had McGeady in around the back, driving towards to byline and Wednesday’s goal.

For some reason, apparent to nobody other than himself, Kieren Westwood rushed around three miles off of his line in order to close down McGeady.

The former Wednesday man checked, picked out a good square pass to Honeyman, who controlled and lashed it past the two covering defenders and into the net.

What the fudge Westwood was doing, I’ll never know.

I was reminded of my Sunderland mate, who I guessed would be enjoying himself right now.

He’d told me that Westwood was prone to a mistake when we signed him. For the best part of the past three years, I’ve reminded him they made a mistake in letting him go.

Argh.

One down, again, to another defensive lapse.

Fortunately, give or take a couple of angry shouts after losing possession, the fans did not turn on the players.

Wednesday, in their new-look diamond formation, had much the better of the first half from here.

Pudil: centre half

Granted, little in the way of clear cut opportunities came from it, but the tempo was there, some of the passing was crisp, and the shape allowed us to get the ball into feet much more frequently.

Abdi played at the tip of the diamond behind Hooper and Winnall; all three had solid first halves.

Hunt, who still looked shaken from his early injury, was cautious to get too far down his wing with little in the way of protection behind him.

David Jones was fairly tidy in midfield, losing the ball occasionally to wildly exaggerated groans.

Chances started to follow: Jones had a shot well blocked, Barry Bannan made a good run into their box, Sam Winnall was off-balance in the six yard box after a delicate Hooper touch should have given the former Barnsley man a great chance.

Wallace on the ball

Sunderland looked solid at the back: the giant frames of Lamine Kone and Tyias Browning snuffed out anything airborne. Hooper and Winnall were clever enough for them, and bought a couple of freekicks in opposition territory.

One such free-kick, in a central position, had the North Stand faithful deliberating it’s likely destination.

The clown to the left suggested the wall, the joker to the right the back of the net.

In the middle, yours truly, got it spot on.

The ball nestled itself in Row 8.

 

HALF TIME: Wednesday 0-1 Sunderland

 

As the whistle sounded, there were nearly as many “Gi’ o’er fudging booing” shouts as there were actual boos, which was good.

Aside from one defensive lapse, there was a fair bit to be encouraged about in that first half.

Bannan: back to his form of 15/16

Barry Bannan’s good form continued – he looks more of the Good Season Bannan as opposed to Bad Season Bannan – he’s keen to get on the ball, move with it, and pass it quickly. There’s less of his headless pressing too, so the midfield retains its shape better.

Pudil looked solid at centre-half, too, winning most of his challenges against Vaughan.

There were a few hairy moments, granted, but many more reasons to be optimistic.

In the QPR game, after losing momentum, Carlos waited too long to introduce his final substitution to the game.

Against better oppostion, and with three options to choose from, he couldn’t afford to do the same here.

 

SECOND HALF

 

In fact, he chose one straight away, with Steven Fletcher coming on to face his former club.

The unfortunate Almen Abdi made way.

Players should be picked on merit, but it is proving pretty difficult for Abdi to stamp his authority on a game when he plays for a maximum of 45 minutes.

Fletcher moved up top with Hooper dropping into the hole.

The football in the second half was excellent at times.

With the defensive triangle of Lees, Jones and Pudil comfortable, the two full backs could utilise the entire wings of the pitch they had at their disposal.

Much better in the second half

Adam Reach, in his best Wednesday performance for ages, did just that, taking on Honeyman and Billy Jones with regular ease.

To me, Wednesday do not look as sharp as Carlos would like, but Adam Reach stands out. He looks in great shape and, despite his amusingly odd running technique, possesses a fantastic engine.

Sunderland continued to sit back, Wednesday continued to probe.

The two centre-halves in red were fantastic all game, in fairness. Browning, on loan from Everton, looks like a loan steal: he is composed on the ball, great in the air and sticks his body on the line. Grayson will be a good coach for him.

He was a busy lad in the second half.

Fletcher and Winnall won held the ball up well, Bannan and Jones fed the flanks, and the crosses started to find their targets.

Winnall forced Jason Steele to react. Kone beat Hooper to a cross that would surely have resulted in a goalbound header.

The tempo was good, the passing crisp, and the crowd responded.

The Kop, briefly, was buoyant. The North Stand felt the ascendancy rising.

And then, from nowhere, the equaliser came.

Did you see that? He’s got a foot like traction engine

Kone, until now a rock in the Sunderland defence, cheaply lost possession with Wednesday well forward.

The ball found its way to Jones, and with little else on, he unleashed a shot.

Surely not?

Steele was well placed, and though the ball was struck beautifully, the ‘keeper had it covered.

Or did he?

No.

No he didn’t.

Pandemonium.

What a fudging strike!

Jones, awestruck with his own ability, was lost in his own celebration. Bannan, Reach and Fletcher surrounded him as the three stands roared their appreciation.

The Wednesday fans had been appreciate of their team’s effort until this point without really, erm, ‘bringing the fur up’, as the long term custodian of this piece would term it.

But the noise now as the players returned to kick-off was excellent.

“You’re not singing anymore!”

The chances to win the game followed.

Jordan Rhodes, by christ does he need a goal, entered the fray.

But for the defending of Kone, he would have made an immediate impact.

After good work from Reach and Fletcher down the left, and a good cross from the former, Rhodes looked to meet an inswinging cross in the same way he did for Huddersfield all those years ago.

From the resulting corner, Steele fumbled the ball, only for a combination of Fletcher and Hooper finding themselves unable to turn the ball over the goal line.

Fletcher: made an impact against his former club

Sunderland’s defenders, led ably by young Browning and Kone, looked reasonably solid, as if only some sparkling football breach their lines.

And it very nearly did.

After a move of innumerate passes, down the left and right, with Bannan continually at the centre, the ball broke for Fletcher on the edge of the area.

He squared it to Hooper, eighteen yards from goal. His first touch was excellent: flicking it in the air perfectly to fool the retreating defender.

Now with time and space, he unleashed a venomous volley that skimmed the top of the bar.

The lovely football deserved its reward.

But it wasn’t to be.

And so the game ended 1-1.

 

FULL TIME: Wednesday 1-1 Sunderland

 

Finally, some positives to take from a game.

Granted, Sunderland did not look like title favourites, but played a solid game that restricted Wednesday’s best players.

They created little, and barring two Westwood errors, never looked like scoring.

The new shape worked well. Individuals played well. We scored a stunning goal.

We find ourselves winless in three.

We have endured a poor start, but the shoots of revival are there.

It’s a shame that other club business continues to detract from the playing staff.

How long the Head Coach and Chairman will tolerate it remains to be seen.

Let’s take the new shape to stuttering Fulham and, like they did at Hillsborough in May, show the division what a side chasing promotion looks like.

 

 


Hugh

Owls Alive
EMAIL: admin@owlsalive.com
TWITTER: @Owlsalive and @hugh_wragg

Images: SWFC except Honeyman (SAFC)


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