Match Report: Sheffield Wednesday 2 Millwall 2

Owls' second goal scorer Jeremy Helan celebrates his goal
Owls' second goal scorer Jeremy Helan celebrates his goal
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Hands up any fans who thought Saturday’s match could be a banana skin.

Me too!

That feeling began to disappear when the Owls hauled themselves in front after a bad start and looked capable of extending their 2-1 lead.

But they failed to finish the job and it is a bit of a worry when they are unable to beat a team who were without a league goal or a point and were no great shakes on Saturday either.

The Owls showed again what has long been obvious and what the leadership are attempting to correct before the transfer window closes on September 2: they are short of a goal-scoring striker and a midfield general who can take a game by the scruff of the neck.

The team’s defending was flawed as well, with both of Millwall’s goals.

All in all, there were errors from both teams all over the park in a game that was a crazy mixture of dismay, excitement, hope, expectation, controversy and anti-clmax.

There was the shocking start when the Owls gifted the Lions their first league goal of the season. To be fair to Lee Martin, he did well to get the cross in when closed down by Lewis Buxton, but no-one picked up a runner, Scott McDonald, and his run to the near post was a distraction before Kamil Zayatte, a hero at Leeds the previous week, turned the ball into his own net. Even before that, Chris Kirkland had to make a brilliant save, from Richard Chaplow. Millwall returned the gift when Stephen Bywater dropped a Buxton free kick and Mark Beevers sliced an attempted clearance towards Reda Johnson, who with his great header and work afterwards was a welcome addittion to the side.

After Jeremy Helan drilled home a first-class shot from an assist by Atdhe Nuhiu, the Owls should have gone further in front in the first half, despite lacking fluency in their passing.

Michail Antonio blasted a shot into the Kop; Giles Coke volleyed at the keeper; Nuhiu headed against the post from a ball by Johnson, and the left back’s follow-up was saved by Bywater.

Millwall, who brought the wrong kit and played in Wednesday’s old away one in the first half, had a go at the Owls in the second half more because they were trailing than because they were inspired by changing into their own away strip at half time after it was rushed from London.

The second half was a story of mediocre football and controversies.

It was not clear who was supposed to have fouled Bywater when he could only knock down a Helan free kick: Johnson slotted the loose ball into the net but the goal was disallowed. The keeper was challenged by a team-mate, said Dave Jones.

The Owls manager also implied that he thought a penalty should have been given over the chance when Antonio tried to go around Bywater. Anthony Gardner, however, said that Antonio did not think that was a foul - but that Antonio did believe a spot kick should have been awarded for another challenge on him.

Gardner also admitted that contact in the Owls box between sub Jose Semedo and McDonald was “dubious”. The striker seemed outraged, at the time, and his manager afterwards dubbed the challenge a rugby tackle.

Another blow for Wednesday was the withdrawal of Lewis Buxton at half time with what Jones described as a tight hamstring - a possible worry for a player who has had significant hamstring trouble in the past. Semedo came into midfield, and Liam Palmer switched to right back.

Wednesday were not improved by the departure of Nuhiu; their attacks lacked a focal point, with Antonio looking isolated on his own in the middle, though the intention was probably for Helan and sub Chris Maguire to support him from the flanks,

As a team the Owls struggled to retain possession or put anything together going forward. and they received a warning when Chaplow put a free header wide.

Apart from that, however, Millwall too had barely been a threat until they were awarded their penalty, given by a linesman, in the 87th penalty.

After a corner was half-cleared, Chaplow ran goal-side of Helan; who gave chase; I thought at first that the winger’s challenge was a foul. Having seen it again, I am not so sure. There might have a been a touch on Chaplow’s shoulder but it was not clear why his legs crumpled.

Jones said: “We got wrong side. That’s the switching-off. Sometimes that can happen with young players. The ref is closer; he doesn’t give it; for some reason the linesman does. We’ve watched it from every angle. It’s not a penalty.”

Gardner commented: “The linesman gave it. It was one of those decision that sometimes you get, sometimes you don’t; unfortunately they got it.”

To credit Jones, he did not make a song and dance about this incident and turned the spotlight on his team’s performance: “We didn’t play well. We were a bit lethargic. It’s hard to explain. But we got our noses in front. When you’re not playing well, you win ugly, we didn’t do that.

“There were decisions, but we should have been a couple of goals to the good before the penalty.

“Certain players were half a yard off the pace today. We were screaming at them to shut them down; we got the second goal because we did that.

“It just seemed a bit of a flog for some of the players today, and the first goal was a poor one to give away, from a ball that’s gone across our six-yard box.

“Reda has scored his goal. He needs to get up to the level of fitness we expect.

“We are a bit short at the moment. We’re trying to correct that. When the time is right and we can do it, we’ll do it, but at the moment we have to dig in and stay fit. We’re only four games in.”