RAMBLE | Wednesday 2-4 Villa

RAMBLE | Wednesday 2-4 Villa

Well it seems like an age since I’ve written anything Wednesday related.

An introduction to our new boss at the turn of the year was my last piece.

Maybe it’s a bit of apathy creeping in as the season limps towards the inevitable conclusion of 16th place?

Anyways, here we are. Late February, mid table, early bar.

A good football chat as always, dragging up past memories… all part of the continuing football education of Tom.

Matches against Villa are always special for me. After all, the Atkinson saga happened just as I was seriously getting into football.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d had a season ticket for a few years before. I remember the 1984 team photo on my wall and my early hero worship of Gary Bannister.

I remember seeing the club relegated against Forest. The cup semi against Chelsea.

 

VILLA MEMORIES

 

All part of a Wednesday education that led me to the first game of the 91/92 season, stood with my 13 year old mates right at the front of the ‘Barmy Army’ pen at the back of the Kop.

Big Ron and his Big Ron coat and Big Ron glasses

I’d never stood up there before, my dad always preferring to be closer to the action, but I relished the atmosphere, the concentration of bodies, the noise.

It was our first game back in the big time after a season that saw us win promotion, win the League Cup and also run away with the Pontins’ Reserve League.

This season’s team photo saw Trevor Francis sat front row centre with two (count them) TWO bits of silverware at his feet… both won under the leadership of the day’s focus of attention, Ron ‘Judas’ Atkinson.

And when Hirst cut in from the right wing and lashed a screamer that bent three ways and then damn near ripped through the roof of the net, I had my first taste of what it was like to be in the Barmy Army.

The surge, the mayhem… ‘limbs’ they call it nowadays.

The rest of the game is a blur, but since then I’ve always loved games against Villa.

Team news pinged through as we began our second pint.

 

PRE-MATCH

 

A return, more or less, to the team that did so well against Derby. Sean Clare back in the starting eleven, Boyd back in at left wing back, two actual strikers starting.

We discussed the merits of various players and conversation turned to Venancio. It has to be said, he’d been largely a success since coming in from the cold.

A few costly mistakes, yes. But bear in mind he’d been lacking match practice after a barren start to the season.

It was mentioned how he’s the kind of player who has a little more confidence in his own ability than is warranted. Trying the occasional Cruyff turn on the edge of the box, carrying the ball way out of defence before getting a nose bleed.

“He’s good, but he’s no Majid Bougherra”

“Now there’s a player…”

Tom: “Who?”

Magic Madjid in national team colours

A brief conversation about the mini-legend of Majid ensued… Tom hanging on nearly every word.

How commanding he was, what a presence, what a talent, what a song we had for him, what a big headed t**t he was.

This was a player who had his own website long before the days where every single player worth his salt had a twitter/insta/fb profile.

A player who conducted a survey on his website (while he was still a Wednesday player) about whether he should sign for Everton (who wanted him as a midfielder) or Charlton.

Charlton won the bidding war… I know, sounds crazy doesn’t it… and we spent the money wisely in bringing in Leon Clarke if I remember rightly.

Tom: “But why was Leon Clarke so rubbish for us?” We talked sports psychology for a little while.

Not so magic: Big Leon back in 2010

About how big Leon needs the perfect blend of motivation, man-management, form, confidence and game time to be a success

And while he was at Wednesday there was always at least one element of that lacking. Tom soon got bored talking about Leon Clarke and instead asked why the bubbles in cola are different to the bubbles in beer…

I bet he wishes he’d have been more interested in the psychology of a Wednesday anti-legend, as he was treated to a chemistry lesson for the next 5 minutes.

We left the pub in good spirits, and a little later than normal.

We could hear the crowd from right up outside the Horse and Jockey. Tom was worried that we’d miss the kick off.

“Nah, we’ll be fine. Even if we do, all you’ll miss is the first throw in of the game after the ball is passed back to Fox and he hoofs it up to Nuhiu, who won’t connect, and the ball will bounce out of play.”

We did make it in time as it happens (Fact banked: you can make it from the Horse and Jockey and into your seat at the ground in 12 minutes).

This may have been helped by the switching of ends, Wednesday kicking towards the Kop in the first half.

 

THE MATCH

 

The game started brightly, a real end to end affair. Both sets of fans in fine voice. This was a proper match, between proper clubs.

I was enjoying a game of football for the first time in a very long time.

Actually enjoying it. Weird.

Early on there were signs that referee Neil Swarbrick was having a game of funny buggers, allowing us to play “advantage” when the ball dropped to one of our players’ feet in our own penalty area and under pressure instead of blowing the bloody whistle.

Glenn Whelan, another blast from the past, was having a quiet but tidy game in front of the Villa back line.

Whelan: another blast from the past

Snodgrass was getting a deserved pantomime villain’s reception.

His ties to Leeds and Hull, plus his hypocritical remarks about Forestieri’s honesty not easily forgotten by the home fans. But what a left peg he has on him.

A few early chances came and went before a lovely bit of play saw us take the lead.

A ball worked in from the left was chested down by Nuhiu into the path of Clare who confidently hit the ball first time and tucked it inside the keepers left hand post.

His first goal for the club, and richly deserved.

It’s great to see a youngster come into the side with such confidence and composure. He reminds me a little of Chris Bart-Williams. Great with the ball at his feet, turns and runs his way out of trouble rather than panicking, a little bit of flair about him, but a good work ethic too.

A first goal for Sean Clare, and a lovely finish it was too

Villa were soon back in the game.

A soft free kick awarded to Snodgrass who had fallen over his own shadow saw him take the free kick himself, causing havoc in the Owls defence.

Wildsmith made a superb double save, but couldn’t manage the triple as Grabban grabbed the equaliser, prodding in from close range.

Clare was coming more into the game and forced a couple of saves, his confidence clearly building.

Joao: another Hillsborough goal

It really was a smashing game of football.

Wednesday have clearly been doing some work on set pieces as a succession of corners brought a few good chances, most notably a little one-two routine between Clare and Reach seeing the latter breaking into the box and creating a chance or two, one of which forced a save, another seeing Boyd hit the upright.

So when a third corner in quick succession was awarded Villa were set up well expecting the same routine.

However, this time Reach went old school and whipped the ball in first time, Joao meeting the cross sublimely to head us back into a half time lead.

 

HT – Wednesday 2-1 Villa

 

The concourse was full of grins at half time.

I bumped into James Marriott of the Wednesday Week… “What a first half that was!” he remarked. I couldn’t disagree.

It was a game living up to its billing.

The second half kicked off with the same intensity, however chances seemed at more of a premium in the early stages.

Clare again went on a few decent runs.

A few more odd decisions from Swarbrick was starting to rile the home fans, most notably when John Terry took Nuhiu’s legs when he was through on goal.

Well, not necessarily through on goal as it was on the half way line… and it was Nuhiu.

Terry: hacked down Nuhiu but escaped punishment (Daily Star)

Even so, he was the last man and could have easily seen red from a less partisan ref… he was even wearing Villa claret for heaven’s sake.

The tide was turning and soon Villa had their second equaliser of the game.

Snodgrass (agaaaiiin) being allowed way too much time and space to pick out Whelan with a pinpoint cross, the former Owls favourite neatly nodding home in front of the fans who used to adore him.

He did the dutiful thing and refused to celebrate, jogging back to the halfway line but accepting the high five’s of team mates.

This spurred Wednesday into life again.

Nuhiu forced a save with an angled drive, and a goalmouth scramble following another brush with the woodwork agonisingly came to nothing.

Some might say what happened in the final five minutes was inevitable.

It’s what teams at the top do.

Firstly Hourihane hit a lovely half volley to gain the lead for Villa for the first time in the game and with only a few minutes remaining. To be fair I think it was his first meaningful contribution.

At this point Tom turned to me in disappointment, possibly influenced by the hoards of fans now suddenly leaving the ground, and asked if we could leave.

He got a stern “no!” – this team have played really well today and you’ll clap them off the pitch. So we stayed.

Wednesday huffed and puffed a little, but the game was lost.

The afternoon wouldn’t be complete though without the pantomime villain “winning” himself a penalty by running into Pudil and then falling over.

Snodgrass, here in his Hull days, winning a penalty by means of simulation. Don’t forget to criticise other players for simulation though, Snoddy! (101greatgoals)

Of course he took the penalty himself.

Of course he scored.

 

FULL TIME – Wednesday 2-4 Villa

 

The full time whistle blew and I stayed longer than usual to applaud the players, partly to prove a point to Tom.

I honestly enjoyed that game more than I have some 1-0 victories. It was a great match, between two great clubs.

People may argue that the ref spoilt it, but I’m not looking for excuses or blame today.

I’m just happy to have been to a match that brought back the same kind of excitement as I used to feel back in the day stood at the back of the kop with my school mates.

We lost that game too after being ahead – a former player scoring against us to boot, but it was still a great game.

This season is basically over for us, but if I can enjoy the final few games as much as I have done this game, then I’ll be happy.

Just as long as we stay up.

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

Images: SWFC, unless stated.


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