With less than a week to go until the big kick-off, the Owls were handed a big reality check by Scottish Premiership outfit Rangers.
Goals either side of half-time from Josh Windass and Kenny Miller ensured Wednesday completed their pre-season preparations on a low note.
There were few positives head coach Carlos Carvalhal could take from the Owls final’ friendly. It was a disappointing, disjointed display.
Midfielder Barry Bannan branded their performance “not good enough”.
“It was a poor performance,” he told The Star. “We weren’t good enough and miles off where we need to be.
“We have got to be a lot better if we are going to achieve what we want to achieve this season.”
It was a largely forgettable fixture in front of a bumper Hillsborough crowd.
Carvalhal fielded a strong team, giving summer signing George Boyd his home debut, but Wednesday lacked pace, creativity and defensive organisation.
As Carvalhal pointed out post match, the hosts struggled to get going in the first half and Rangers looked the more accomplised team with and without the ball.
Wednesday, playing in last season’s away kit, missed a spark and Gers wingers Daniel Candeias and Windass repeatedly troubled their defence.
Carvalhal’s side were careless and sloppy in possession and had few sights at goal. Bannan let fly twice in quick succession from long range to no avail, Fabio Cardoso produced a superb block to clear Tom Lees’ downward header and Daniel Pudil, who later switched from centre-half to left-back, nodded straight at Wes Foderingham.
Way too much of the Owls’ approach play was slow and predictable. Carvalhal blamed nerves for their below-par opening 45 minutes.
Nearly 7,000 Rangers travelled to the Steel City and they certainly enjoyed their day-out. Housed in the North Stand, the Gers supporters were in good spirits throughout and never stopped singing. They were a noisy bunch and Windass gave them more reasons to celebrate in the 43rd minute, firing past Keiren Westwood after latching on to Ryan Jack’s neat pass. The Owls’ defending left a lot to be desired. It is little wonder Carvalhal wants to sign a minimum of one new centre-half before the transfer window shuts on August 31.
The hosts marginally improved after the interval following Fernando Forestieri’s arrival. He added some much-needed pace and guile to their forward line. Forestieri saw his cross near the byline desperately scrambled to safety by Rangers backline.
Jordan Rhodes should have made it 1-1 but his drive from inside the six-yard box was somehow kept out by Foderingham.
It proved a pivotal moment as Miller doubled the Gers lead, rifling an unstoppable right foot shot out of Westwood’s reach after a looping cross by Lee Wallace.
Shortly after pulling off a great save to deny Wallace, Westwood was taken off as a precautionary measure after suffering a head injury in the collision with the Rangers player. Carvalhal said Westwood is “fine” and expects him to be available for Saturday’s league opener with Preston North End.
Forestieri and Adam Reach kept trying to make things but the Gers executed their game plan with class and precision to leave Carvalhal with plenty to ponder this week.
Bannan said: “Things didn’t click but we were a lot better in the second half and unlucky to concede. We were the better team but we couldn’t get the goal. The keeper made a good save from Jordan which could have changed the game but sometimes you don’t click.
“But it’s a friendly game at the end of the day and we have a big game coming up against Preston and that is the one that matters the most.”
Bannan is dead right. People shouldn’t go overboard after one defeat.
Yes, Wednesday probably made Rangers look a better side than what they actually are but it will be in the Championship where Carvalhal and company are judged.
The fact is the Owls’ squad remains incomplete. There are still some gaps that urgently need filling, with Rangers clinically exploiting their defensive frailities.
“It doesn’t matter whether it is a friendly or not, we want to win every game,” said Bannan. “It was a poor result and a lot of the boys are disappointed.”
One thing is for sure, a big improvement will be required in Lancashire when the real stuff starts this weekend.
OWLS: Westwood (Wildsmith 61); Hunt, Lees, Pudil, Reach; Wallace (Loovens HT), Bannan, Jones, Boyd (Nuhiu 76); Hooper (Forestieri HT), Rhodes (Fletcher 65). Substitutes: Wildsmith, Dawson, Lee, Abdi, Winnall, Joao, Matias, Thorniley, Fox, Baker.
Rangers: Foderingham; Hodson, Cardoso, Alves, Wallace; Candeias (Waghorn 89), Jack, Dorrans (Holt 90), Windass (Kranjcar 74); Miller (Wilson 86), Herrera (Moreios 80). Substitutes: Alnwick, Bates, Dalcio, Pena.
GOALS: Windasss (43), Miller (54)