OWLS MATCH REPORT: Huddersfield 0 Sheffield Wednesday 0

Huddersfield Town v Sheffield Wednesday.....Owls Reda Johnson nearly heads home a late wiiner
Huddersfield Town v Sheffield Wednesday.....Owls Reda Johnson nearly heads home a late wiiner
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IT shows how far Wednesday have progressed in the last two weeks when they can come away with a point from an away Yorkshire derby against a team some distance above them in the table and feel aggrieved.

Yes, aggrieved, at not making it four wins in a row, though Jeremy Helan’s amazing escape from a sending-off may have given the impression that Huddersfield were the only ones who had suffered an injustice.

There is merit in Dave Jones’ claim that the Owls should have claimed all three points.

They created more chances than the Terriers, had the greater pace and power, and were markedly the better side in the first half.

The TV highlights programme showed two of Huddersfield’s four opportunities in 90 minutes yet only one of Wednesday’s five, and there were other strikes at goal.

Helan - backed up by Jones and teammates - believes that he was clipped by right-back Jack Hunt in the ninth-minute incident for which he was shown his first yellow card, and that he should have had a penalty. The TV evidence was inconclusive.

Mick Russell’s error in noting that he had booked Michail Antonio was astonishing in that it was clearly Helan, number 24, who was alleged to have dived, while Antonio, number seven, was not even close by.

Imagine the uproar if, having made that blunder, Russell had given Antonio a proper booking later and sent him off.

Once Helan had been carded, the left winger was rash in making the 25th-minute challenge that brought him his second yellow.

There is no certainty that the Owls would have lost if he had been sent off, in view of the way they are defending these days.

Jones would probably have switched Antonio to the left wing, left one up front and tried to make sure that his team were still hard to break down.

As it was, the team were good value for a fourth successive clean sheet.

It is hard not feel some sympathy for Huddersfield. No wonder manager Simon Grayson said he was staggered by a major error.

“I’m not going to say Wednesday going down to 10 men would have guaranteed us winning the game,” he said.

“But it would have certainly helped us, and what if the lad had gone on to score or create the winning goal?”

Grayson also made a good point - that referees should be accountable and obliged to explain themselves after games, instead of managers being left to talk about controversies.

Jones deflected questions about Helan with a twinkle in his eye, and obviously knew the Owls had been fortunate to a degree. But if they really should have had a penalty when Helan went down, then it puts a different compexion on matters.

It was reasonable for Jones to say: “On the balance of play, we should have taken all three points, but maybe that’s being a bit greedy and I’ll take the one, and that’s four points from the last two away games.

“We’ve got pace, we look solid, and that’s another clean sheet.

“It’s another solid performance from us.

“They’re full of confidence at the moment - and when you go away with 4,000 fans behind you, it’s terrific.

“We didn’t go to defend: we attacked and attacked.

With a bit more quality in front of goal, we’d have got maximum points.”

A shortage of quality around the box, whether it be in the final ball or the finish, has been a recurring theme this season and it cropped up again on Saturday.

But when there was a good strike at goal, Huddersfield keeper Alex Smithies was equal to it: he saved well after Helan burst clear in the ninth minute, just before the ‘penalty’ incident; pushed a 20-yard volley by David Prutton wide in the 15th minute, and stopped a header by sub Mamady Sidibe from a Rhys McCabe corner in the 89th minute.

Times when the Owls could have done better included, in the first half, a Helan cross that failed to find Gary Madine; in the second, Antonio drove wide from a decent position, and was not precise enough with a cross where Madine was coming in at the far post, a moment spotlighted by Jones: “Gary was in a great position; if Michail slips him in, it’s an opportunity.”

Huddersfield had only one threatening attack in the first half, in the 44th minute, when a half-volley by striker Simon Church was saved by the left leg of Chris Kirkland.

The Terriers were more lively for the first 20 minutes of the second half and made opportunities when midfielder Keith Southern sent a tame header at Kirkland, and Jermaine Beckford hooked a close range effort over the bar.

The latter period of the half was scrappy and even, and there was drama at both ends in the last 10 minutes. Sub Mamady Sibibe volleyed a half-chance wide from 18 yards, Sidibe tested Smithies, sub striker James Vaughan shot wide on the only occasion in the game where Wednesday were opened up by a ball through the middle; and in the third minute of stoppage time Reda Johnson threw himself at a Jermaine Johnson cross but could not keep the ball on target.

Reda had been booked in first-half injury time for the second game in succession and is banned for tomorrow’s match against Burnley for receiving five yellow cards.

But what a happy festive season it has been for the Owls after a haul of 10 points from four games, and they head into the new year with confidence on a high.