Sheffield Wednesday 3 Exeter 0: Match Report and Slideshow

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TEN league games is the landmark where teams traditionally take stock.

They have a better indication of their strengths and weaknesses at this stage and a clearer idea of their prospects for the rest of the season.

Sheffield Wednesday v Exter City....GOAL....Gary Madine converts his penalty spot kick for his second goal and to make it 3-0

Sheffield Wednesday v Exter City....GOAL....Gary Madine converts his penalty spot kick for his second goal and to make it 3-0

Wednesday are seventh in the table, and I would suggest that seven out of 10 would be an appropriate mark both for their efforts since the campaign began and their performance against Exeter.

The Owls have made a reasonably solid start, all in all. They are nicely on the rise and have the same points tally as the four teams just above them, and there is a distinct possibility that they will get even better.

Saturday’s match was further evidence that Hillsborough does not provide a pleasant experience for visiting teams like it used to do in recent times.

It is more like the early weeks of the 1983-84 promotion season under Howard Wilkinson. Wednesday have now won their first five home league games for the first time since then.

Sheffield Wednesday v Exter City....GOAL....Owls Gary Madine heads home the second goal

Sheffield Wednesday v Exter City....GOAL....Owls Gary Madine heads home the second goal

Exeter came primarily to shut up shop, and by putting nine men behind the ball when the Owls had possession succeeded in making life awkward for the first half-hour or so.

Wednesday could barely get a decent ball into the box but then got to grips with the task and after two goals in a three-minute burst just before half-time there was never any doubt about the outcome.

Gary Madine of course continues to make headlines, after nine goals in his last seven league games.

“He looks like the player he should be,” said boss Gary Megson. “He’s working hard - he got as much applause after chasing back 60 yards to close down the full-back as he did for his goals and winning the penalty. He’s winning headers and he’s really looking the part.”

Madine arrived from Carlisle with a bit of a ‘bad lad’ reputation but he said in a programme article on Saturday: “I am actually a really nice person despite what a lot of people think!”

Megson feels that Madine’s image has not all been his fault but says: “He needs to realise that off the pitch will have an effect on the pitch. At the moment I have no complaints about him. He just needs to settle down a bit and he can go on to be what he wants to be.

“He’s not started on a level playing field. The only way he can cope with that is by continuing to get the goals, play as well as he is doing and keep himself out of any problems that may follow him around.

“His goals will always attract people’s attention, but even if he hadn’t been scoring his hold-up play, movement and workrate are miles better than they were in the first few games of the season.

“We’re really pleased with him. He’s got to keep playing on, because he can get even better.”

Madine is not the only one on the right lines.

The breakthrough goal on Saturday came from a largely unsung player, James O’Connor, and there was a big contribution from the recalled Chris Lines.

With David Prutton ruled out for between two and four weeks with his thigh injury, Megson started with Lines on the right side of midfield, with O’Connor partnering Jose Semedo in the middle, but switched Lines into a central spot after that undistinguished opening half-hour for the team in which Exeter’s unexpectedly defensive approach became apparent.

The manager explained: “In the first half, we had James and Semedo, whose qualities show when we haven’t got the ball. They’re very good at closing the ball down and winning it back, but I felt that with the way Exeter set out, it put the onus on us to get on the ball and play.

“James wasn’t having the best of times with the ball, but that’s what Linesey’s game is; he played ever so well and he won his fair amount of tackles.

“I’m really pleased for James; he was having a poor game for the first 20 minutes but he got the first goal.”

A Lines free-kick into the box created that vital moment. The ball went into the air off a defender’s head, Reda Johnson nodded it across goal, Rob Jones’ header was well saved by Artur Krysiak, and O’Connor slotted home a close-range chance for his first goal of the season.

It became 2-0 only three minutes later. Krysiak made a hash of a cross by Lewis Buxton, Ben Marshall’s attempted chip over the keeper was deflected into the air and Madine’s aerial power did the rest.

Wednesday never gave up their grip on the game after that.

With supreme confidence, Madine tucked away his penalty after his imperious run was halted abruptly by centre-half Danny Coles.

Sub Chris O’Grady looked lively and skilful on his home debut as a 73rd-minute sub and twice played a part in the flowing move that nearly made it 4-0, with Lines hitting the post from 25 yards.

Loan keeper Stephen Bywater watched all this from the other end and never had a save to make. But Megson said: “He was terrific.

“I think that was the most assured our back four have looked for a long time.

“It’s open to debate whether that’s because of the goakeeper that’s behind them. I doubt it.

“But when you say he didn’t have much to do, I’d love that every week - that nobody gets anywhere near our goal.

“I’d prefer that statement rather that what a great save Richard O’Donnell made against MK Dons in the last 10 minutes.

“I thought he [Bywater] kicked it well, he took one two crosses, he organised well and can be pleased with his debut.”