Home is where the heartache is
NICKY Weaver knows that he could be in for a busy evening when League One hot-shots Peterborough come to town tomorrow.
The visit of the division’s top scorers on the back of their 6-0 thrashing of Carlisle (Posh also missed two penalties) may be ill-timed from the Owls’ point of view.
But is there ever a good time for Wednesday to play at home?
No matter what the opposition, or how they are faring away, they just cannot get their Hillsborough form right.
Saturday’s performance against Notts County was not much of an improvement on the previous Saturday’s 4-2 slip-up against Plymouth.
The midweek win at Oldham raised hopes of a turning point, and hinted at the possibility of a home revival, ahead of two successive Hillsborough games.
But weakened by the absence of the injured Gary Madine, and undermined by a dubious penalty decision that gave County the inspiration of a 26th-minute lead, the Owls huffed and puffed, struggled to create chances, and find themselves on the spot again over their erratic form.
First things first: was it a penalty? I instantly had my doubts when Alan Gow took a tumble after Mark Beevers moved in to challenge.
Replays suggested that the incident started outside the box and they failed to prove that there was any contact, though Gow took an eye-catching fall well inside the area.
It was certainly not a clear-cut issue, and the other question was whether Beevers needed to make the challenge or whether he could have just forced the forward wide.
Take away the goal and it would still have been a dreary, unimpressive outcome for Wednesday.
They did not possess the guile to carve County apart, so got nothing for spells of possession, and when they tried the other route of knocking the ball forward in the air,it played to Graeme Lee’s strength: the ex-Owls centre-back consistently won headers.
Madine was missed for his aerial power and ability to hold the ball.
Maybe Megson thought that none of his other strikers could do the same job in a 4-5-1 system and perhaps that is why the manager opted for 4-4-2, with a front two of Clinton Morrison and Neil Mellor.
It appears that the switch was made somewhat reluctantly, and Megson could not resist a dig at critics who queried the 4-5-1, though it has brought results away.
“That’s the first time in the last few games that we’ve played 4-4-2, we hardly got any shots off,” he said.
“The wise and the wonderful have an idea about how we should play at home. That’s the 11th time we’ve played it [in the last few months]; we’ve lost eight and drawn three.”
Megson also bridled at the reaction of a few fans who apparently were unhappy about Isaiah Osbourne being taken off, not thinking that he might be injured; the midfield player had signalled that he was struggling with a knee knock.
The manager view’s about what went wrong, in general, was: “The tempo of the game was too
slow. We didn’t get close enough to people and we didn’t force the issue.
“In my view it just shows the value of scoring the first goal, especially for ourselves here. Once the opposition score, there seems to be an attitude of ‘here we go again’.
“We looked as if we were only going to score from set-pieces, yet we’re playing with two up front and two wide people.”
Megson felt he had to make half-time substitutions; the introduction of Jermaine Johnson up front and Daniel Jones on the right side of midfield was an attempt to bring in pace and fresh legs.
Wednesday created not one chance in the first half. Weaver blocked a shot at 1-0, and just before half-time made a wonderful one-handed save from a header by striker Njogu Demba-Nyren, who should have scored from the rebound but put it wide.
In the second half Wednesday forced scrambles, had a few near misses and never got a break in the box. But County created opportunities to extend their lead.
Clinton Morrison almost finished off a free-kick by Tommy Spurr and a cross by the left-back; Jermaine Johnson shot wide; Tommy Miller fired just past the angle; and from Gary Teale corners Michael Morrison had one header blocked by the keeper and put another wide.
Weaver made a third save, from Demba-Nyren, and a fourth, getting a good touch to an angled drive by winger Ivan Sproule after he had gone past Reda Johnson - who earned a blast from Weaver as a result.
County assistant manager Alex Rae felt there was contact in the penalty incident: “I felt he clipped him.
“I haven’t seen it again, Whether it was outside the box or not I couldn’t say.”
The Owls still have not won at home in the league since they beat Bristol Rovers 6-2 on December 11, and on Saturday it was the first time they had failed to score at Hillsborough since they lost 2-0 to Huddersfield on November 2.
It was insipid. We didn’t ask too many questions of their goalkeeper; they didn’t do a great deal with ours, certainly in the first hour.
I’ve seen the penalty again. The fact that the ball gets up there is poor from our point of view. It comes from a goal-kick, which we don’t get on to first of all.
We’ve got three players all on the same line, Sedgwick, Morrison and Johnson. Once it gets flicked in, Mark Beevers just has to keep him going out. With just a coming together the ref gives a penalty. Having seen it again, I don’t think it’s even close. There was nothing there.
A few looked a bit heavy legged from Tuesday. We looked half a yard behind Notts County. They didn’t do a great deal themselves but we didn’t force the issue. We didn’t create any real, clear-cut opportunities.