WEDNESDAY brought to mind the first day of the season by storming back to take a deserved point against Derby.
In August, setting out on their new adventure in the Championship. they were two down at Pride Park after 27 minutes.
A glorious goal from Chris O’Grady and a last-minute equaliser by Reda Johnson sent a 6,000 away following home happy.
Much has changed since then, but not the Owls’ tenacity or capability to cope with this division, judging by the way that once again they clawed themselves back to match opposition who are well established at this level, after defeat had looked very likely.
That was not the only thing we had seen before.
Michail Antonio made one goal with a first-class cross and poached another from a Danny Pugh corner, like he did against Brighton the previous week.
Miguel Llera got back in the old routine, heading an important goal, the equaliser, which also compensated for his giving away of a penalty.
Wednesday also showed a glimpse of the defensive frailty from which they suffered in the early part of the season, when they were opened up through the middle a bit too easily, for Derby’s first goal, but from the visitors’ point of view it was an excellent one, well-worked, with Jeff Hendrick finishing clinically after a one-two with Jamie Ward.
What was very unusual about the game was an Owls substitution in only the 33rd minute.
It had seemed likely that Connor Wickham would come on as some stage, though it was expected that he would start on the bench, having joined the club on the eve of the game, and with the team in winning form.
But Wednesday were causing Derby too few problems going forward. Not that the Rams were a huge threat, either, except for a first-minute shot by Ward that was well saved by Chris Kirkland, and until the Rams scored in the 23rd minute.
Jones took off Kieran Lee, switched Antonio to his former position on the right wing and sent on Connor Wickham up front.
The manager explained: “I just felt that we needed to get in behind them, and it was best to do it early. Kieran was not doing anything wrong. It was purely tactical. It paid off. But it didn’t look like it was going to do when we were two down.
“Sometimes Michail looked like he was having one of those days, up front. The pitch was a bit bobbly. When we were getting the ball into those areas, he seemed to be giving it away a bit too much. So give him a bit more space, and stretch them a bit more.
“Michail loves playing up top, he loves playing out wide. We didn’t think we were getting at them quickly enough with the pace that we have, and we needed more of a focal point.
“We were set up probably to counter-attack a bit more. At home, maybe we’ve just got to get in behind them a bit better. As soon as Connor came on, we had a focal figure, and it allowed Leroy (Lita) to have other duties, which he did well.”
It seems certain that Wickham and Lita will be the new front two, and were earmarked as such for future games, even before Saturday’s, though the England Under-21 man understandably started on on the bench.
It looks the classic combination of big target man and little goal-getter, and Wickham showed enough strength and quality to suggest than he will be an asset. A goal for him would have topped off his debut, but his shot from a narrow angle was saved at the near post in the closing stages, after Antonio created the opening.
Antonio also missed a chance in the 46th minute, driving over the bar, but he sparked an effervescent spell for Wednesday by ramming the ball into the roof of the net after Adam Legzdins failed to claim a teasing corner by Pugh.
As after the Brighton game, the opposition claimed a foul on the keeper - but there was no evidence to support that.
The atmosphere was vibrant as Wednesday powered forward in this period and got their reward via a great ball from Antonio and an emphatic close-range header by Llera.
Wickham was often in the thick of the action, from the moment he came on, and earned praise from Jones:
“He did everything we asked of him and might have a got a goal near the end; he was a bit unfortunate,” he said. “It was a good debut. It’s hard because he’s not had a great deal of first-team football, then he comes here and gets thrown on, in front of 25,000 and when the game is 100 miles an hour.
“He was breathing quite heavily.
“There’s no substitute for game time. He has a certain level of fitness which got
him through. Now he’ll benefit from a week’s training with us, and we’ll get ready for the next one.
“He’s still only 19. He went for a big price tag. He just wants to play. He has an enthusiasm for football. He’s enjoyed it. There were 25,000 here; he could have gone somewhere else in our division and had nowhere near that.”
“He knows what’s expected of him. Everybody showed great character.
“Nobody hid. Everybody rolled up their sleeves and got going.”