Back in business! SIX talking points from Sheffield Wednesday's vital win over Millwall
It was far from perfect, but Sheffield Wednesday defeated 10-man Millwall 2-1 at Hillsborough last night.
Here are six talking points from an Owls perspective.
Coming out of the blocks quickly
I’ve been very critical of Wednesday starting matches slowly and allowing opponents to grab the initiative. It has been one their big failings this season.
It is frustrating as the Owls look an accomplished team when they play at a high intensity with and without the ball.
And judging by the last two fixtures, Wednesday appear, at long last, to be learning from their mistakes.
Millwall struggled to contain the hosts early on and it would not have flattered the Owls in the slightest if they had scored two or three goals before Tom Elliott’s 13th minute equaliser.
Wholesale changes paid off
It was a brave call by boss Carlos Carvalhal to make five alterations to his starting line-up. He changed three of his back four in search of an elusive clean sheet.
Liam Palmer was drafted in for his first league start, Morgan Fox returned at left-back and Glenn Loovens replaced Joost van Aken at centre-half. Palmer and Fox bombed forward at regular intervals, with Fox setting up Reach’s opener.
Loovens looked uncertain at times and Fred Onyedinma caught him out for Millwall’s equaliser.
Carvalhal was full of praise for Jacob Butterfield’s performance post-match. The midfielder added energy to their midfield and kept things ticking over in the centre.
And Jordan Rhodes proved to be Wednesday’s matchwinner, notching his first league goal since March after a Butterfield corner.
Defensive errors remain a worry
There were times when the Lions ran Wednesday’s much-changed defence ragged. Fred Onyedinma was Millwall’s danger and his pace and power unsettled Loovens on occasions.
Carvalhal will be concerned by the raft of chances Millwall created in the second half. Things could have been very different if Shane Ferguson or Jake Cooper had made the most of the opportunities that fell their way. And the Lions had other promising situations which they messed up.
If Wednesday are to pick up a positive result at Aston Villa, individually and collectively they must improve as a defensive unit.
Long overdue goal will do Jordan Rhodes a power of good
The striker has had to be patient and wait for an opportunity to showcase his credentials. His time at Hillsborough has so far not panned out the way he or most observers thought it would.
But Rhodes had a point to prove on Tuesday night and finally ended his long goal drought. His trademark predatory finish from Jacob Butterfield’s corner lifted his all-round game and he should have added to his tally. The striker’s acrobatic overhead kick whistled just wide before the interval and after the break he headed against the post.
“He’s always a threat; he never gives you a moment’s peace,” said Millwall boss Neil Harris. “Sheffield Wednesday have got an enviable squad for us to look at. That’s where we want to compete.”
What Rhodes now needs is an extended run in the team.
Barry Bannan is in the form of his life
The midfielder has been the Owls’ standout performer this season and he delivered yet another dynamic performance last night. He never stopped running, constantly harrying Millwall’s midfield in possession.
When he was on the ball himself, Bannan was Wednesday’s creative spark. He was, as usual, accurate with his passing and it took a fine stop from Lions goalkeeper Jordan Archer to prevent him grom getting on the score-sheet in the first.
If Bannan could add some goals to his game, he would be the complete Championship midfielder.
There is still a big room for improvement
It was an important win for Wednesday and takes some of the pressure off Carvalhal. The Owls showed, in glimpses, what they are capable of but the three points was the main thing following an alarming slump in form.
However, one swallow doesn’t make a summer and all that. The second half display was a little disjointed and Wednesday looked defensively vulnerable again. Better sides than Millwall would have punished them.
The harsh reality is Wednesday have faced mediocre opposition in the last two fixtures. They should be picking up maximum points against teams such as Barnsley and Millwall. Four points was the bare minimum requirement.