GARY Megson admits that he took a “ big chance” with his team selection - but if it was a gamble it paid off as the Owls brought the feelgood factor back to Hillsborough.
The gloom of last Tuesday’s performance against Brentford was swept away by an upgrade in standards from the team and a correspondingly brighter response from long-suffering fans.
When Wednesday had last received standing ovations at half-time and full-time, I cannot say for sure, but certainly not often enough, and the first home league victory in four months was just the tonic that everybody needed.
The Owls answered Megson’s demands for workrate and commitment - and he revealed that, in making six changes, he picked a team with those qualities in mind.
“It was a big chance that I took. because that’s probably not the most talented 11 players we’ve got, but it’s probably the bext 11 working players we’ve got.
“There were players playing in that team purely and simply because of that - and the subs were exactly the same.
“Crowds will respond when they see players with the same colour that they’ve got on giving it as much desire and effort as they would do if they got the opportunity; then maybe they’ll accept misplaced passes or not finishing in the right manner.
“What people won’t accept is a perceived lack of effort or lack of care.
“I said to the players on Tuesday: I’m sure it’s not the case, but some look as if they don’t actually care; that can’t be the case, but that perception was there.”
In many ways it all came together on Saturday.
Neil Mellor, in only his fourth start under Megson, fully justified his recall and took his goal total to a sweet 16, with a calm lob and an emphatic header.
At last the team had some joy with a 4-4-2 pattern, getting forward with improved, though not flawless, passing, and looking reasonably tight at the back despite having lost concussion victim Rob Jones who, after dizzy spells, was booked in for a precautionary brain scan.
At last Wednesday took the lead in the first half, instead of having to chase the game.For once they had a lucky break or two: David Mooney volleyed a chance wide when it was 0-0, and Colchester captain Kem Izzet contributed to the first goal, playing a Jon Otsemobor pass back towards his own goal and straight to Mellor.
The changes were in general a success: most motably Mellor up front; left-back Lewis Buxton; right-back Otsemobor, whose double link-up with Gary Teale and fine cross set up the second goal; and midfield man James O’Connor, though it is not the first time this season that his effort and tenacity have served the club well.
Reda Johnson, though his weak clearance led to the U’s late consolation goal, produced some solid defensive work after being completely out of the picture for four games.
Jermaine Johnson was typical JJ ... the end product not there as often as it could be, but still the one who excites fans and frightens defenders.
It could have been a far more emphatic win. Mellor touched an effort from O’Connor on to the post when it was 0-0.
Johnson and Teale had first-half opportunities, Tommy Miller went close when it was 2-0, then Mellor was brought down in the box but didn’t get a penalty; he also put a shot and attempted header over the bar: “It went off my shoulder.”
Just after the second goal, Richard O’Donnell did his bit with a fine block from winger Ashley Vincent. The keeper almost prevented that late goal, with a good save from John-Joe O’Toole, and had no chance from the follow-up by Steven Gillespie.
Megson, pleased with Mellor’s comeback, was able to hand out several bouquets: “Neil’s been out of the side for a while, but football has to be about what you do, not what you say you’re going to do. Neil’s no problem. He was going to play on Tuesday, but we can only use five out of our six loans.
“Gary Madine is a disappointed bunny because he’s not getting goals, but his performance was excellent. He’s worked his socks off, he made some great runs, and at the other end he’s headed everything out of the box.
“He’s learning. He’s a young lad. He’s going to get better and better.
“I was really impressed with Jon Otsemobor, in his first full game back. He’s assured, he’s got pace and strength.
“Lewis Buxton - that’s the best left-back performance I’ve seen since I’ve been here, and he’s a right-back.
“I’m pleased with all of them; but the one I’m most pleased with, and had to give a huge amount of thought to, is James O’Connor, because he’s not the crowd’s favourite; why, I don’t know, because he’s most honest of honest players.
“He’s got the most integrity of any player in terms of doing his best for Sheffield Wednesday.
“He trains like a dream, he plays like a dream in terms of effort, honesty and desire.
“He played ever so well and the crowd responded to his effort.”
- Megson shrugged off a Saturday-morning report that claimed he could be set for the sack if the Owls failed to beat Colchester.
“It doesn’t matter. When you’re a manager and things aren’t going right, whether it’s your fault or not, your name’s above the door.
“I’ve been in it since I was 35, so it’s no big deal. Such is life.”