Woeful Wednesday turn back clock to bad old days of a month ago
GARY Megson happily turned back the clock 30 years when he met Jack Charlton at Carlisle; on Saturday it went back by only a month, with unpleasant results.
As in the MK Dons game on the day after his appointment, the Owls manager found himself having to make half-time substitutions to try to salvage something after an awful first half in which the team went two down.
A fightback against Dons earned a point, but the Plymouth contest slipped away from Wednesday and probably left home fans wondering how on earth they managed to earn four points and keep two clean sheets at Bournemouth and Carlisle.
They started untidily, all round, and the defensive strength of those two improved performances was missing as they conceded two simple goals which set the tone of the afternoon.
The Owls hardly ever hit top gear going forward and were always chasing the game, against opposition who produced a mixture of clinical and first-class finishing and seem to have bred togetherness as they play without pay, with their club in administration.
It was the comprehensive nature of the breakdown of the Owls’ functioning that led to the hour-long inquest in the dressing room afterwards.
The management and players aired their views. Was there a consensus of opinion about what went wrong?, I asked
Megson:”Yes, I suppose there is,” he said, “But it stays in the dressing, what was said.”
It was back to the bad old days of letting in early goals. For the first one Kari Arnason beat Gary Teale, and before Tommy Spurr could close him down the midfield man played a low cross that was laid off to Bondz N’Gala. Nobody had picked up the right-back after he made a forward run, and his shot was unstoppable.
The second goal was similarly easy for the Pilgrims - a long cross into the box, a header at the far post by Rory Fallon, who outjumped Richard Hinds, and another header by Joe Mason after he had lost Mark Beevers.
I did think, however, that the second goal was against the run of play. Wednesday had been getting plenty of balls into the box, from both flanks, and if Teale had equalised with a volley that hit the bar maybe it would have been a turning point.
Megson made three substitutions at half-time: “We shouldn’t be having to do it,” he said. “We’ve had a response a few times when it’s happened; again, we got a response.
“We scored the next goal, and to be honest once we’d scored it, a terrific goal, not only did I think we’d get something, I thought we’d go on and win.
“But the third goal killed us.”
It came from a long throw. Wednesday had nobody in position to intercept the ball in between thrower and receiver.
Centre-back Stephane Zubar, practically unchallenged, headed it on, and Mason ran off Spurr to chest it down and score with a brilliant half-volley.
Megson reflected: “In terms of organisation and taking responsibility, it had to be seen to be believed.
“There was nobody in front, when there should have been; then we should have the area full of players and it’s not.
“It’s a good finish from the lad, but there’s no challenge on him.”
So the hope inspired by sub Giles Coke’s splendid strike evaporated after four minutes. He had run forward, picked his way past a challenge and drilled a shot into the bottom corner from 22 yards.
Even Peter Reid had to admire it:
“Good feet on the edge of the box,” said the Plymouth manager.
At that point, Megson was optimistic. Wednesday were having a go, attacking towards the Kop end.
But their start to the first half had been unimpressive. The manager reflected: “We didn’t give ourselves the opportunity to play. We said to them before the game that what we were looking for was a good start, high tempo and play with intensity, we get the crowd into it, we get that momentum and try to score the first goal. We didn’t get any of those things. Everything was taking half an hour, our set-pieces took too long, and they werebreaking on us at set-pieces. Those things weren’t happening in the previous two games.”
He was encouraged by the start to the second half: “At least we were getting the ball into the box with a bit of pace. We looked much better going forward. We stepped up the tempo.
“We needed to make sure, after we scored, that we used that momentum; we threw it away in the space of four minutes.
Wednesday did not really look like recovering from a 3-1 deficit, and a fourth goal just rubbed it in. Yannick Bolasie cut inside Reda Johnson on to his right foot and from at least 25 yards the finish was top drawer.
Johnson’s late goal, a header into the bottom corner from a Spurr corner, was academic. The ex-Plymouth defender did not celebrate, and nor did anyone else. Many Owls fans missed it - they had already left the ground.
There was no place in the 18 for 14-goal top scorer Neil Mellor. Megson explained: “We have a big squad. We can’t just pack the bench with forwards. We try to cover for different eventualities. Some players, because of the size of the squad, are going to be disappointed.”
The manager, when asked, tried to pick out bright spots: Coke’s goal, Jermaine Johnson’s return to action, Clinton Morrison’s performance ... “He did well when he went on.”
But Megson dded: “When you’ve got beaten 4-2 at home, I don’t think you can turn around and look for positives.”
It was absolute chalk and cheese, compared with what we’ve had in the last two games.
We never came to grips with Fallon. We didn’t play anywhere near the same kind of football with the same kind of quality that we’ve shown in the last two games with the same team.
That’s why we’re as late as we are. We have been talking about it and what the reasons are, and what they think the reasons are.
Seven days have elapsed from a really good performance at Carlisle, with the same people all involved, then an abysmal performance in the first 45 minutes.