Owls Match Report: Scunthorpe United 4 Sheffield Wednesday 2

Owls Atdhe Nuhiu celebrates his goal
Owls Atdhe Nuhiu celebrates his goal
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Head coach Carlos Carvalhal has used Wednesday’s warm-up matches as an opportunity to try out new ideas, formations and get his squad physically prepared for a long, gruelling campaign.

All that matters to the Portuguese is making sure the Owls are in good shape for their opening-day tussle against Bristol City on August 8.

The friendly at Scunthorpe underlined that Wednesday have still got a lot of things to sharpen up before the big kick-off.

Let’s start with the positives. There were some very encouraging signs, particularly in their attacking play and a couple of good individual performances.

Atdhe Nuhiu impressed up front, winning his fair share of headers and holding the ball up intelligently. He was a good focal point, offering a timely reminder to Carvalhal that he could be a useful option this season.

Marco Matias bagged another goal as he continues to adapt to English football and Ross Wallace always showed for the ball, eager to make things happen.

Owls goal scorer Marco Matias

Owls goal scorer Marco Matias

What Wednesday need to get out of the habit of doing is giving away soft goals. Their defending for all four of Scunthorpe’s goals left a lot to be desired.

It took a fine block early on by Charlie Goode to prevent Nuhiu’s volley from forcing Luke Daniels into a stop after good approach play by Ross Wallace. From the resulting corner, Nuhiu rose highest to nod home from eight yards. There was a lovely round of ‘Happy birthday’ after the tall striker marked his 26th birthday with a goal.

Wednesday’s joy was short-lived as Scunthorpe equalised just before the quarter of an hour mark. Paddy Madden fired home after Tom Hopper and Kevin van Veen carved open the visitors on the right hand side.

But Matias put Wednesday back in front mid-way through the half following a defensive mix-up. The Portuguese, who could shortly be joined by ex-Nacional teammates Lucas Joao at Hillsborough, turned in Nuhiu’s cross from close range.

Lewis McGugan at full stetch with Scunthorpe's Scott Laird

Lewis McGugan at full stetch with Scunthorpe's Scott Laird

There were several occasions when Wednesday’s backline looked vulnerable in an entertaining contest. Sliding in, Tom Hooper narrowly failed to connect with Madden’s dangerous delivery.

Scunthorpe, managed by former Rotherham United and Barnsley boss Mark Robins, were not to be denied and levelled things up again in the 26th minute, with the lively Madden volleying in Scott Laird’s centre. That was Madden’s seventh pre-season goal.

Both sides treated the friendly seriously and there were several meaty challenges. Had it been a competitive fixture, Glenn Loovens would have almost certainly been yellow carded after bringing down Madden. Van Keen stepped up and curled the free-kick into the side-netting.

For all their incisive passing football, Wednesday gave away two sloppy goals and Scunthorpe repeatedly caused them problems. Their defence, containing none of their eight new faces, looked vulnerable at times against the League One outfit.

Owls Liam Palmer

Owls Liam Palmer

Scunthorpe, deploying a 3-5-2 formation, created the first meaningful chance after the re-start as Laird galloped forward before seeing his low drive well held by Keiren Westwood, who had recovered from a toe problem.

Out of nothing, Wednesday almost regained the lead following a risky back pass by Niall Canavan, under pressure from Lewis McGugan, but Daniels snuffed out the danger and headed clear.

Madden was a thorn in the Owls’ side throughout and, after rounding Westwood, was denied his hat-trick by Liam Palmer, who cleared his shot off the line. Van Veen curled his effort later over the ball as the Iron kept piling on the pressure.

Both teams made lots of changes but Scunthorpe continued to carry the greater attacking threat and deservedly took the lead through Van Keen. Although Westwood got a hand to the Dutchman’s fierce effort, he could not keep it out.

Caolan Lavery twice tried his luck as Wednesday pressed for a leveller.

But Scunthorpe caught them out on the counter attack in the dying minutes, with substitute Kyle Wootton steering a lovely header out of Lewis Price’s reach following a superb counter attack.

It was another good workout for the Owls but gives Carvalhal plenty to ponder ahead of their final pre-season fixture versus St Mirren on Saturday.

Scunthorpe United: Daniels; Clarke, Goode, King, Canavan, Laird (Harding 67); Bishop, Dawson, van Deen, Madden (Wootton 73), Hopper (Henderson 70). Substitutes: Anyon, McAllister, Mirfin, Hawkridge, Assenso, Boyce.

Wednesday: Westwood (Price 68); Palmer (Hunt 64), Loovens, Lees, Helan; Semedo (Lavery 70), Lopez (Hutchinson 64), Matias, McGugan (Lee 64), Wallace (May 64); Nuhiu. Substitutes: Bus, Sasso, Vermijl, Lachman.

Referee: Seb Stockbridge (Tyne)