Match Analysis: Sheffield Wednesday 0 MK Dons 0 - Off night for Owls
Throughout a thoroughly eventful first season in English football, Carlos Carvalhal has maintained a steely focus on the job in hand.
Results are at the top of the Portuguese chief’s priority list, not personal milestones.
But 24 hours after signing a contract extension, Carvalhal’s 50th match in charge of the Owls proved a frustrating affair.
Wednesday dominated for long periods, hitting the woodwork FOUR times, but failed to deliver the knockout blow. To compound their woes, Ross Wallace was given his marching orders in the dying minutes after an off the ball incident with Jonathan Williams.
Carvalhal resisted the temptation to make wholesale changes to his starting line-up.
Gary Hooper, fit-again following a foot problem, was preferred to Lucas Joao up front in their solitary alteration from Saturday’s home draw with Ipswich Town.
For the fifth match running, Sam Hutchinson missed out due to glandular fever.
There was no place in the squad either for Aiden McGeady, who is still nursing a hamstring problem.
With David Martin and Cody Cropper unavailable for selection, MK Dons turned to teenage goalkeeper Charlie Burns to solve their goalkeeping crisis. It was Burns’ first Football League start.
In the early skirmishes, the Dons enjoyed the bulk of the possession and frustrated Wednesday’s array of attacking talent.
At a subdued Hillsborough, it took until the quarter of an hour mark for either side to fashion an opening. Daniel Pudil sliced a volley wide from just outside the penalty area after the Dons only partially dealt with Ross Wallace’s dangerous centre.
It was all too slow and predictable from the hosts and Karl Robinson’s side almost punished them in the 17th minute after the ball broke kindly to Jordan Spence, who tested Keiren Westwood from an acute angle.
Moments later, Wallace cut inside on to his favoured left foot before unleashing a rasping shot which was comfortably gathered by Burns.
The Dons, deploying a 4-1-4-1 formation with ex-Owl Darren Potter utilised in the holding midfield role, sat deep and defended in numbers, belying their lowly league position. It was difficult to tell at times which side was sixth and who was 22nd.
A free-flowing move involving Fernando Forestieri, Alex Lopez and Kieran Lee freed Wallace, whose effort was kept out at his near post by Burns.
It was a good spell of pressure for Wednesday and Barry Bannan, one of their standout performers this year, should have done better after latching on to Pudil’s neat cross but the Scotland international skied over.
Both sides knocked the ball around with confidence and precision - up to the final third. Poor decision-making and a lack of composure kept letting them down.
On the stroke of half-time, the Owls almost broke the deadlock out of nothing through Pudil, who saw his cross-cum-shot strike Burns’ left-hand upright.
In an attempt to inject some urgency and energy into his out-of-sorts side, Carvalhal made a tactical change, throwing on Atdhe Nuhiu for Lopez. In the reshuffle, Bannan moved into the middle of the park, Forestieri switched to the left flank, allowing Nuhiu to partner Hooper in attack.
Pudil continued to get plenty of joy on the left hand side, fizzing in a fine centre across the face of goal which evaded everybody after good build-up play by Nuhiu.
It didn’t take Nuhiu long to make his presence felt and the big man rose highest at the back post to nod over Pudil’s cross.
Wednesday kept passing and probing and Nuhiu’s bullet header from Wallace’s well-flighted set piece struck the upright to compound their frustration.
Nuhiu’s physical presence added an extra spark and the former Austrian Under-21 international wasted another glorious headed opportunity following more good work by Wallace.
All the momentum was with the Owls and it appeared a matter of time before they broke the deadlock.
It felt like a training exercise of attack versus defence.
Nuhiu gave Wednesday’s forward line an added dimension and his superb crossfield pass picked out Forestieri, who tricked his way into the penalty area before seeing his drive well saved by Burns.
Dons centre-back Joe Walsh produced a wonderful last-ditch tackle to stop Nuhiu from firing home following another positive raid by Pudil.
The visitors simply could not get out of their half and Pudil was unlucky to see his right foot effort strike the woodwork and bounce to safety.
Tempers boiled over in the closing stages after Forestieri was controversially booked for simulation for the third time in the space of two months.
Wallace was dismissed after clashing with Williams. Referee Darren Handley, a late replacement for the injured Peter Bankes, infuriated the home faithful with that call. Chants of ‘You’re not fit to referee’ were aimed at Handley.
If that wasn’t bad enough, Bannan’s free-kick also hit the woodwork and Forestieri had a late penalty appeal waved away as Carvalhal’s side were forced to settle for a point. It was just not their night.
It is now no wins in three, but the Owls are now six points clear of seventh-placed Cardiff after they slipped up at Brentford.
Wednesday: Westwood; Hunt, Loovens, Lees, Pudil; Wallace, Lopez (Nuhiu HT), Lee, Bannan; Forestieri, Hooper (Joao 89). Substitutes: Wildsmith, Palmer, Turner, Matias, McGugan.
MK Dons: Burns; Spence, McFadzean, Walsh, Lewington; Potter; Baker, Williams (Maynard 84), Carruthers (Murphy HT), Bowditch (Powell 66); Revell. Substitutes: Long, Kay, Brittain, Emmanuel-Thomas.
Referee: Darren Handley (Lancashire)