Chris Holt on Sheffield Wednesday: At times you have to just credit the opposition...defensive tactics or not

We were all warned that this would be a completely different game than the one that had preceded it.

Wednesday, 8th March 2017, 1:34 pm
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 9:56 am
Fernando Forestieri cuts a frustrated figure on the Hillsborough turf in the 1-1 draw with Burton Albion

The challenge of a Burton Albion side, battling for points at the wrong end of the table in their first season in the Championship, would represent a challenge nowhere near like the one brought by Norwich City on Saturday.

The Canaries, too, needed the points but probably all three, given their desperation to force a way into the top six. Burton, on the other hand, would be more than happy to feast on scraps, as draws in their previous three games would prove.

Sam Winnall attempts to find a way past a wall of yellow in the Burton backline

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And so, even engulfed in the buzz of a 5-1 hammering of Norwich and the terrific performance that came with it, we shouldn't have been surprised that Sheffield Wednesday laboured against the Brewers and Nigel Clough's stubborn resistance.

Clough didn't care, and why would he? He watched a video of Wednesday's weekend win and saw how Carlos Carvalhal's side picked Norwich apart with ease. All of that was because Norwich opened up and attempted to get at the Owls. It proved to be their undoing but such was their need for a win, they had little choice.

Burton did have a choice. They could have done the same as Alex Neil's side did and had a go at Wednesday (they did actually make a brief attempt at that, at the beginning) and risk suffering the same fate. Or, they could play to their obvious strengths - stay rigidly disciplined to defensive tactics and hope for the best. Clough, understandably and unsurprisingly plumped for the latter and got what he wanted - a 1-1 draw and a point away from home against one of the best teams in the division. One more in their quest for survival.

Yes, the dark arts came into play a little bit. A few moments of play-acting ran down the clock on occasions, there were more than a few fouls on players who can make a difference - Fernando Forestieri in particular - many of which went unnoticed and stunted the odd home attack, but put yourselves in their shoes. They badly wanted that point and were prepared to do whatever it took to get it. Most of us would forgive our own team's players for doing in the same in that position.

Jordan Rhodes struggled in front of goal against a Burton side intent on scrapping for a point

The onus was really on Wednesday to break Burton down and they couldn't do it but that doesn't really represent a failure. Football can't always be as black and white as that. The Owls pushed and pressed and tried to find a breakthrough by different means. They went long on occasion, they attempted to pass their way through, they tried to cross early and they tried to cross from the line. Each way found a man in yellow, batting away the latest attack and getting ready to go again.

The match as a whole drew criticism from some fans for differing reasons.

The 'anti-football' tag was thrown around but, as already mentioned and admitted by Clough, had Burton attempted to play 'open, expansive football' as the manager put it, they would have been left nursing a scoreline similar to that which befell Norwich.

Other observers pointed their ire at Wednesday, who I believe actually played quite well. 'We should be beating teams like this' was one that came up often.

Sam Winnall attempts to find a way past a wall of yellow in the Burton backline

The fact is, no team has a divine right to beat any and in this ultra-competitive league, you can't really rely on picking up points from any game.

When Wednesday take on Aston Villa, on Saturday, one would expect Steve Bruce to be more attacking and leave gaps, making it a little more akin to how Norwich set up. Reading are then up next and they, too, would be delighted with a point against a fellow play-off rival - again another attritional encounter could come about, not least because both teams stunk the place out when they met at the Madejski earlier in the season.

It will be a growing theme. One game open, another with the door firmly shut.

That may sound frustrating, but at this stage of the season with so much at stake for so many teams, you'd probably best get used to it.

Jordan Rhodes struggled in front of goal against a Burton side intent on scrapping for a point