Sheffield Wednesday: No pride for Owls at Pride Park

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No-one saw the Owls’ 4-1 flop at Birmingham coming.

No-one expected them to hammer Reading gloriously 5-2.

A hat-trick of surprises was completed in unpleasant fashion at Derby.

There was no sign of Wednesday’s usually solid away form, or the attacking flair that destroyed the Royals.

Even at Barnsley, where the first half was poor, the Owls roused themselves to turn the contest around in the second half.

But at Pride Park they were second best from start to finish - in just about everything.

It must be a worry when they can be so inconsistent. Did a bit a complacency creep in after the victory against Reading? Maybe. Or were they just beaten by a better side?

Give Derby some credit. The division’s top scorers, and now only two points outside the top six, they looked a decent team on this showing, with passing, movement and interchanging going forward, and a competent defence.

Dave Jones is right, however, in suggesting that his team put themselves under pressure at times by conceding too many unnecessary free-kicks.

Thanks to some good fortune they almost escaped unscathed from Derby’s dominant first half but one set-piece too many put them on the slippery slope, just before half-time: the Jamie Ward corner from which centre-half Jake Buxton got in front of Kamil Zayatte to head home.

There had been other close calls, involving centre-forward Chris Martin, left back Craig Forsyth and forward Simon Dawkins, playing on the left side of a fluid front three and continually causing problems.

Debut-making defensive midfield man Kalifa Cisse protected the Rams’ back four.

Wednesday put together only one memorable move, and it came in that first half, taking in Stephen McPhail and Matty Fryatt and a cross from Michail Antonio that was headed over the bar by Seyi Olofinjana.

In general, Derby bossed midfield and the Owls struggled to string anything together going forward. Fryatt and Connor Wickham received hardly any service, and wide men Michail Antonio and Jeremy Helan, normally a threat on the break in away games, found it hard to get into the game.

Wednesday were lucky to be only one down at half-time and when it became 2-0 only four minutes into the second half the signs were ominous.

Their right flank was picked apart and when the ball was played to the far post Will Hughes had got goalside of Helan to put away a tap-in.

A double substitution by Jones as early as the 53rd minute, with Helan and McPhail making way for Jermaine Johnson and Giles Coke, was an indication of how badly things were going for the Owls.

Who knows whether they would have forced their way back into it had a ball from JJ not led only to a shot over the top by Antonio - such a maddening moment for a player whose finish against Reading was top-class.

Only three minutes after that miss, it became 3-0. This time it was the left flank that was sliced open, with Wednesday outnumbered there. When the ball was driven across goal, Zayatte failed to clear in the middle and Martin was unmarked when he knocked it home at the far post.

There were chances for Derby in the last 20 minutes: two for Ward, one of them bringing a save from Chris Kirkland, and one for Dawkins.

It would have been nothing more than a consolation for the Owls if they had scored with their only shot on target, in the 82nd minute. From a long throw by Antonio, Wickham struck and Lee Grant made a

block to earn himself a clean sheet against his old club.

The Owls’ following of almost 4,000 gave their team great backing, in the circumstances, but many of them left before the end. No doubt they will be wondering what the heck the team will do in the next game, against Huddersfield a week on Saturday.

Jones was as upset as anyone, and there were almost certainly some harsh words for the players in the dressing room.

He was angry because he feels the team have it in them to show more fight, avoid needless free-kicks, and exhibit better quality on the ball.

Jones thought that the first goal was poor, and that the second and third stemmed from a lack of communication between players when Derby were coming forward.

He also said: “The first five passes we hit went to them. You dig in if it’s not working for you. With some of our decision-making in passing, the ball was under-hit or over-hit.

“The players during the week were different class. There’s been a great atmosphere. Btu we were our own worst enemies (in the game). We gifted them things.

“We’re a lot better than that. Maybe one or two, or three or four, or even more, thought it was just going to happen because of our win, Maybe they’d just forgotten what put them in those positions in the drawn games and the win.

“They didn’t go and earn the right.”

He was asked if he could seen any positives and replied: “The referee blew early.”

Then he added: “I can’t see a positive. I’m so angry with them. They should be angry with themselves.”

DERBY COUNTY: Grant; Wisdom, Keogh, Buxton, Forsyth; Bryson, Cisse, Hughes; Ward (Davies 90), Martin (Sammon 87), Dawkins (Bennett 78). Unused: Smith, Jacobs, Freeman, Morch.

SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY: Kirkland; Buxton, Zayatte, Roger Johnson, Reda Johnson; Antonio, Olofinjana (Palmer 77), McPhail (Coke 53), Helan J Johnson 53); Wickham, Fryatt. Unused: Mattock, Martinez, Llera, Nuhui.

Referee: David Webb (Northumberland). Att; 26,421