Dom Howson's Sheffield derby column: Sheffield Wednesday have plenty of work to do to close the gulf between themselves and Sheffield United

Organisation, grit, heart, concentration and passion.

Saturday, 10th November 2018, 12:39 pm
Updated Monday, 12th November 2018, 12:48 pm
Sheffield Wednesday centre-back Michael Hector

Sheffield Wednesday put in a spirited, dogged defensive performance in the 130th competitive Sheffield derby.

It was a solid, resilient away display.

Sheffield Wednesday centre-back Michael Hector

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No one could criticise the Owls' character or commitment to the cause.

Wednesday packed their defence. Their strategy was to contain and stifle United's array of attacking talent.

It was backs to the wall and they rode their luck at times but they restricted United to few clear-cut opportunities. Credit the Owls for sticking to and effectively executing their gameplan.

Jos Luhukay's men set up not to lose and to keep a clean sheet. They dug in and ground out a result agains the odds. From that perspective, mission accomplished.

After four straight defeats, it was vitally important Wednesday stopped the rot. It was far from pretty on the eye but recording a first Championship shut out gives them a platform to build on.

If you had asked most Owls fans before the Bramall Lane clash whether they would have been happy with a point and a clean sheet, I think the majority would have snapped your hands off.

Given Wednesday's defensive frailties, it was, to some extent, understandable why Luhukay's side adopted a cautious, conservative approach. His players put in a terrific shift.

Captain Tom Lees had arguably his best match of the season, Michael Hector was a tower of strength in the middle of their three-man rearguard and Jordan Thorniley acquitted himself very well in tricky conditions.

Nevertheless, it was frightening how dominant and superior United looked in virtually every facet of the game. The Blades, particularly in a one-sided first half, bossed possession and Cameron Dawson's 15th-minute penalty save to foil David McGoldrick was a defining moment. If United had got their noses in front, there is every chance the Owls' heads would have dropped and it would have been another long evening.

Did many people expect Wednesday to go toe to toe with United and play free-flowing, expansive football? Certainly not.

Yet it was alarming the lack of ambition, adventure and appetite Wednesday showed to score goals. There was a distinct shortage of creativity and flair in the final third.

What last night's match underlined is how the balance in power has shifted from the blue side of the city to the red.

United have made great strides under Chris Wilder's astute leadership. Wednesday have progressed little since Luhukay's arrival last January.

United, operating on a modest budget, have maximised their resources to the hilt. Wednesday have invested heavily in strengthening their first-team, spending in excess of £25m since 2015.

United are in a good place. Wednesday aren't.

Wilder has drilled a clear philosophy and way of playing into his squad. Ten months into Luhukay's premiership, Wednesday's team still does not have an identity.

There is less than four miles separating United and Wednesday but these two clubs are worlds apart.

The gulf between the two is significant and the Owls have a lot of work to do to cut the gap.