Just the right sort of opposition for a pick-me-up, you’d think. Back-to-back games against one team apparently tailing off into mid-table and another long doomed to the drop. What could be better for a side badly needing the boost a couple of wins would bring?
That is, if you were, say, Fulham or Norwich – or based in any geographical location other than South Yorkshire. The danger is in the distance
when Sheffield Wednesday travel the 12 miles to Oakwell and the six miles to the New York Stadium in the next five days.
No other club in the top half of the Championship would have great cause for apprehension; as indeed Fulham, lurking just behind Wednesday, should have no need to fear the NYS on Saturday. Not that Carlos Carvalhal’s team will, either.
But there’s local rivalry, of course, and even above that, big scores to settle for the players and fans of Barnsley and Rotherham United.
For that reason, if I was an Owls supporter, I’d take four points right now from these two seemingly opportune games. That would be enough of a platform to kick on into having three of the next four at home with Newcastle, Cardiff and Derby in town and a trip to QPR in between.
Strge how these derby games have come in pairs. For Barnsley and Rotherham the memory is fresh, and also painful, of how these local rivals also met within four days in December when Wednesday squeezed out victories of 2-0 and 1-0 without bossing either game and getting breaks on both occasions, particularly the second when controversial decisions at both ends went against the Millers.
Rotherham would certainly prefer their fate not to be sealed by their big city neighbours on Tuesday. Barnsley are still bristling, not quite so much about the Hillsborough defeat as Wednesday’s subsequent prising away of striker Sam Winnall.
These are big factors which go far beyond position in the table. And these opponents will see Carvalhal’s team as vulnerable during a run that has seen them struggle to hold on to the all-important sixth place.
So the word “complacency” isn’t even at the races. Maybe that’s a good thing. And we’ll also find out on Saturday if familiar surroundings can spark Winnall into scoring form after only one goal in eleven appearances for the Owls following 11 for Barnsley.
Not that he’s had more than a few clear chances and the same applies to Wednesday’s even bigger, prize windows capture. Jordan Rhodes has three goals in ten so far. Wednesday have to get these strikers and others up and firing, chiefly by improving the supply.
Besides getting key players back, you feel a starting place for the clever and creative Callum McManaman might help. Only one of his ten appearances on loan from West Brom has been in the eleven.
Enough of the warning signs. Wednesday have the collective and individual strength to start posting one of their own.