MATCH REPORT: Sheffield Wednesday 2 Rochdale 0

New boys do the business: Wednesday's first signings of the summer David Prutton scores to give them the points.   Pictures: Steve Ellis
New boys do the business: Wednesday's first signings of the summer David Prutton scores to give them the points. Pictures: Steve Ellis
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DAVID Prutton, as eloquent and engaging a footballer as you could wish to meet, showed he has a way with words by writing a two-page article in Saturday’s match programme.

Then the game could hardly have turned out better if he had produced the script for that as well.

New boys do the business: Wednesday's first signings of the summer Rob Jones scores to give them the points.       Pictures: Steve Ellis

New boys do the business: Wednesday's first signings of the summer Rob Jones scores to give them the points. Pictures: Steve Ellis

Out on the pitch it was his feet - or rather his left foot - that did the talking and raised the question: When did a player score a better goal on his League debut for Wednesday?

What made Prutton’s volley from the edge of the box even more stunning was the fact he has never been renowned as a scorer. This was was only the 25th goal of the 29-year-old’s career.

But it was not such a surprise when you consider that he netted with a peach of a left-foot shot in the friendly against Leeds.

That game also cast the spotlight for the first time on a previously un-noticed talent of left back Julian Bennett - his long throw.

My ball: Clinton Morrison holds off Marcus Holness in a hard-working performance for the Owls

My ball: Clinton Morrison holds off Marcus Holness in a hard-working performance for the Owls

It took only 16 minutes for that to pay off on Saturday when Rob Jones made his 6ft 7th frame count with a powerful header, and Wednesday were on their way, to a deserved victory earned with goals by their first two signings of the summer.

The player hunt goes on, of course, with the club down to two strikers, but no-one could have asked for much more from the team on Saturday, in the circumstances.

They did a thoroughly professional, workmanlike job.

The back four and the midfield duo of Prutton and Jose Semedo were as solid as they had been in the friendlies.

Sound game: Liam Palmer stretches to beat the visitors' Jason Kennedy

Sound game: Liam Palmer stretches to beat the visitors' Jason Kennedy

Jermaine Johnson’s absence was a worry because the Owls could not replace like with like. What they did do was to exploit what they had in the best possible way.

Liam Palmer, not a flying winger by any means, performed soundly on the right side of midfield, as did Chris Sedgwick on the left, while having to readjust, as his impressive displays in friendlies had been on the right.

The Owls compensated for the loss of Johnson’s attacking thrust by having full backs Lewis Buxton and Bennett make forward runs.

Megson was pleased with Palmer, a 19-year-old who made only his sixth senior start and whose best position is central midfield: “He did well. We’re trying to add goals to his game and bit of responsibility.”

Strikers Gary Madine and Clinton Morrison did not score but fulfilled important tasks. Madine has a responsibility to defend at opposition corners; he cleared several of them.

Morrison’s work-rate and harrying of Rochdale defenders was best illustrated in one second-half incident when Rochdale kept possession but he refused to give up the chase. It earned him applause from the crowd, and his all-round effort won an ovation when he was taken off near the end.

Megson was pleased with the team’s application: “What pleased me was the closing down that we did. That starts up front, with the effort and workrate they put in. They won’t always win the ball, but it will mean the stuff coming up to the opposition’s strikers won’t have as much quality as if their defenders had more time.”

“The Wednesday crowd, and others up and down the country, will always respond to effort, desire and honesty.

“If players want to be appreciated, they have to show that the result means as much to them as it does to the fans.”

Wednesday’s shortage of forward resources was shown when it was James O’Connor who took over from Morrison, and went into a sort of striker-cum-midfield role.

Megson said: “Clinton had started to cramp up a bit. We had nobody on the bench where we could change it without changing the formation.

“We put Ginge on. He did terrifically well in there; we wanted him just to go into that hole and get in an around Widdowson and Jones.

“They played that diamond in front of us. At times it caused us issues. We could have changed and matched it up.

“We didn’t want to do that. We wanted to try and have them change; they had no players playing out wide, consequently Liam and Julian Bennett had a lot of space, especially in the first half, and utilised it really well.

“JJ would have had a field day. When you play that diamond, it obviously makes you very strong, because we’ve only got Pruts and Semedo in there, and they’ve got four.

“We asked the centre forward, Clinton or Gaz, to drop in to the one that’s deepest, but if we can get that right then the opposition will have an issue with the two full backs and the two wides players, and we caused them a lot of problems with that, especially in the first half.”

Wednesday were in command for long periods, but it was inevitable that Rochdale would come out for the second period intending to tighten up and have a go.

They could have been further behind by half time: Morrison slipped just when he had an opportunity to shoot, and Jake Kean saved at the near post from Buxton.

Early in the second half, Nicky Weaver saved from Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro, and was beaten by a right-foot curler by Ashley Grimes that came back off the post.

But the crowd warmed to Wednesday’s continual attacking efforts; they groaned when a Buxton header from a Sedgwick corner bounced up and struck the bar; they raised the roof when Prutton’s volley bulged the net.

Megson concluded: “”It was a good start. On it’s own it doesn’t mean a great deal but it gives you that bit of a kick-start and momentum.

“I’ve had teams where we won the first game and I found myself resigning in February.

“I’ve also had teams where we lost 4-1 in the first game. I brought the paints off the walls; we won the next seven games on the trot.”

Gary Megson’s View

We told the players what we were looking for in this first game, and we got the lot all in one go: the first goal, first clean sheet, first point, first win.

It’s something that Howard Wilkinson used to instil into us when we played for him. You want these things as quickly as possible.

Dave [Prutton] has that in his locker; it was a fantastic strike. We need more of that from everybody. We put a thing up on Thursday about goals that are expected from the positions in the team.

Our midfield players are expected to hold in front of the centre halves and obviously aren’t expected to score a huge amount of goals, but because they are holding and hopefully keeping us a lot more solid, other people are expected to get a lot more goals.

We need to be able to score from free play, from set pieces, to score good goals, scrappy goals; whatever the opposition do, we need to be capable of causing them problems, and in terms of a first performance and first game of the season, that was very good.