SOMETIMES you can analyse football to your heart’s content but it comes down to one thing: sticking the ball in the net.
Missed chances were costly once again for the Owls.
They failed to score against Charlton when they had the opportunities, and on Saturday they made a larger number of them but were unable to punish Hartlepool as severely as they should have done.
There were three clear-cut openings in the first half and four in the second, at least, in addition to the goals.
Failures in front of goal have become a bit of a habit in recent weeks, and it is something that has affected the whole team rather than just one or two strikers.
The Owls often have still done enough to win by one or two goals.
But Gary Megson believes the
team can ill afford to lack ruthlessness now even though the climax of the promotion race lies far in the distance.
“The nearer you get to the end of the season, sometimes it makes me laugh when a team say ‘we’re right it in and we need to take 24 points out of our last eight games’. You’re not going to do it,” he said.
“You have to start preparing now so you don’t leave youself needing snookers towards the end of the season. If you look back at our recent games, it’s not been particularly down to teams opening us up, but Huddersfield was two points gone, Walsall was three points gone, a wrong decision in the Charlton game was a point gone, and Hartlepool is another two points gone. These things start to add up.”
So, a wonder goal by Jermaine Johnson, a return to the goal trail for Gary Madine, and a team performance that on the whole deserved a win all tended to be overshadowed by the knowledge that Hartlepool might have been comfortably beaten, despite twice scoring against the run of play.
Wednesday also have a case if they believe that this was just one of those days.
Pools were fortunate not to have Peter Hartley sent off for fouling Madine just before half-time when it was 0-0.
I was not totally sure whether or not there was at least one defender nearby who might have been able to cover as the centre-half cynically brought the striker down when he was attempting to go for goal after a neat ball from Chris O’Grady.
The ref was obviously not sure either, for he consulted a linesman before showing a yellow card. Maybe it was a borderline case but Wednesday were unlucky and I don’t think there would have been any controversy if it had been red.
Megson seemed to be biting his tongue when he said: “I’ve got my thoughts on that [the incident]. The ref’s got his. He’s made his decision and we abide by it and get on with it.”
It grated even more when Hartley headed Pools in front from a corner just after half-time - Wednes
day had men in there but failed to challenge the centre-back properly.
The header also seemed to go straight at Nicky Weaver, who got a touch, but it was a very powerful effort.
Weaver’s throw set up Johnson’s equaliser. The winger scores a brilliant goal occasionally and this was one of them, as he set off from inside his own half, scorched down the right wing past two opponents and rifled a shot into the far bottom corner.
The Owls manager said: “The first 10 minutes of the
second half showed a cameo of JJ’s whole career. He scored an absolutely terrific goal for us, and cost us the first goal.
“I know he’s just got on to the pitch but he miscontrols it, then his pass leads to the corner from which they scored.
“There are a lot of things that have gone on in the meantime, but when you look at things he did afterwards when he was on the ball he was very good.”
Madine took his 12th goal of the season emphatically, chesting the ball down for a left-foot volley from 12 yards, after O’Grady challenged in the box and Hartley hit a poor clearance.
Wednesday looked well set for victory but they were hit by an extraordinary equaliser. So unusual was Antony Sweeney’s effort that Megson was not alone in wondering whether or not he meant to do what he did.
Megson told the Press “you probably had a better view of it” but he suspected it was a “soft” goal ... “not high enough for a lob or hard enough for a volley”.
It look a second look on TV to confirm to me it was brilliant. Quick-thinking Sweeney saw Weaver off his line, and he sidefooted a volley over him from 25 yards.
In the first half, O’Grady and Madine missed the target, and Mike Jones had an effort saved. In the second, Danny Batth and Miguel Llera headed over from balls by Chris Lines while Ryan Lowe had a shot saved and missed with another.
At least Madine has signalled he is back, and that bodes well for the rest of the season.