I just sat there and scratched my head in wonderment: Jon Newsome's Sheffield Wednesday Column
Talk about the ups and downs lately of being a Sheffield Wednesday fan.
The 2-0 victory over Derby last Tuesday gave me a lot of hope and I was genuinely thinking it would be a turning corner for us and we would start stringing a few good performances together.
When I saw the team sheet for Saturdays FA Cup tie against Swansea it did make me wonder. To be fair to Jos Luhukay he probably couldn’t do right for doing wrong in that situation. Does he prioritise the league campaign and rest players for the trip down to Millwall or does he play a full strength team, or a full strength team as he could muster, and have a go at getting into the quarter finals of the FA Cup.
There were a few mumblings around me about the personnel chosen for Saturday's game but although it wasn’t a great spectacle to watch I thought that the players put a real shift in and it was another performance that I felt built on the Derby performance. I thought we were the better team first half and although Swansea came into the game in the second period we defended really well and might possibly have nicked it in the last couple of minutes. A draw was not really the result that either team were looking for and it means doing it all again next Tuesday evening but I came away happy that we were still in the competition and content with our performance again.
The trip down to Millwall on Tuesday is a long one and I have got to be honest, when the team news came out I just sat there and scratched my head in wonderment. A number of the players had been rested again and most noticeably was the exclusion of Lucas Joao. The team didn’t have a single recognised striker in the starting 11 and everyone was trying to second-guess what the formation would be.
It concluded that we played a very similar formation to previously with three central defenders, two wing-backs with Jones and Pelupessy sitting in midfield, Wallace playing in the hole behind Boyd and Stobbs making his full debut. We started quite brightly and I think this was as much to do with Millwall taking a few minutes to work out just how we were setting up and approaching the game.
My fear was that we didn’t have an ‘out ball’ as such and after about ten minutes MIllwall started to press us higher up the pitch. We continued to play from the back and although Stobbs threatened in behind the Millwall back four on a couple of occasions, his runs were ignored and we got deeper and deeper. To be fair to the lads up front they did what they thought was best and as the game went by we seemed happy to take more and more chances in possession in and around our penalty area. When out of the blue Pelupessy struck a wonderful curling shot into the far post to put us one up it was a welcome relief and at half time I felt we had been a touch fortunate.
The second half started much as the first half had finished and we kept inviting Millwall onto us. It was a bit of a chicken and egg scenario in that the lads at the back didn’t have anything to hit up front but their constant chancing of possession in dangerous areas made it virtually impossible for us to get out of our half at times. We conceded a poor goal from a simple Millwall set piece and then were the authors of our own demise by gifting the second to them by losing possession in our final third.
At 2-1 down the cavalry came on, ie Reach, Joao and Nuhui and all of a sudden we started playing higher up the pitch and in the opponents half instead of our own.
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Overall I felt that it was a massively disappointing performance and it posed more questions than answers, especially with the team selection. Great when it comes off, you are a genius but when it doesn’t it can add some undue pressure.
I found the interview with Jos Luhukay a little baffling afterwards. He felt that the formation and personnel had nothing to do with the result and when he was pressed on the exclusion of Joao, who had been unplayable against Derby County the Tuesday before said that he had to protect his player with a game every three days.
I fully appreciate his viewpoint on this and we really don’t know the fitness and condition of players like he and his staff will. It just didn’t make sense to me that the lad has been growing in confidence by getting a decent run of games, he was rested against Swansea, which again I can understand but then wasn’t included against Millwall, a full week later.
The end result is that we have stumbled again, just when you feel that there is a little something to build on it falters. We need every point that we can possibly achieve right now and although Millwall were a well-organised, solid outfit I really did wonder if we had missed an opportunity.
As I write this it is great to know that Jordan Thorniley is tweeting after he was stretchered off with what looked like a very nasty and possibly serious head injury. No ones likes to see anything like that, especially when it is a young lad and I hope he is back to full fitness pretty sharpish.
It has been refreshing to see a good number of the younger players given their opportunity and even more so that most have committed their futures to the club. Each and every one of them has impressed me with their appearances so far and they have been a real bonus in what has been a pretty awful season so far.