Sheffield Wednesday match verdict and reaction: Reading 1 Owls 1
We know Carlos Carvalhal enjoys rock 'n' roll music, putting the meat on the fire and likes to close all the doors and windows of his house.
Now Wednesday’s charming, charismatic head coach has added another quirky metaphor to his growing collection.
It became pretty clear after the Owls’ battling draw at Reading that Carvalhal is a big fan of western movies as he praised their spirited showing.
“When you see a movie where there are five or six cowboys and they are surrounded by 200 indians, the cowboys are together and try to survive,” he said. “Our team protected themselves and stayed together.”
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As Carvalhal pointed out post-match, the outlaws dominated the opening quarter of an hour. In his fair, meassured assessment of the contest, Carvalhal claimed that was one of their best spells of the season.
It was hard to disagree with him.
Wednesday played some exhilarating, high-octane football. Reading couldn’t cope with the intensity and tempo of their play.
Barry Bannan rattled the post with a fierce left -oot shot after a short free-kick routine before Gary Hooper deservedly opened the scoring.
The striker, captured on a permanent basis from Norwich City following a productive loan spell, revelled in the John Wayne role. He took his seventh goal in as many matches superbly, rifling a right-foot effort past Ali Al Habsi after a fine move on the right involving Ross Wallace and Jack Hunt. It was a classy finish from a man at the very top of his game.
Carvalhal felt Wednesday’s energy levels dropped following that fast start, arguing that Fernando Forestieri and Hooper lacked match sharpness to sustain his pressing game-plan. The duo were unable to take part in training last week.
Reading woke up from their slumber and midway through the half should have drawn level from the penalty spot. Owls captain Glenn Loovens dived in and hacked down Royals dangerman Matej Vydra. It was a definite spot-kick, but the Czech international fluffed his lines, hitting the upright from 12 yards.
Keiren Westwood, fit-again following a six-match absence and Wednesday’s only change, used all his experience to put off Vydra and delay the penalty being taken.
Reading monopolised possession, controlling the showdown for long periods, as Wednesday sat back on their one-goal advantage, inviting them on.
There must have been times when Forestieri felt like the Lone Ranger. He ploughed a lone furrow up front.
But Wednesday were dogged, well organised and difficult to break down. Vincent Sasso caught the eye again, making a string of key blocks and interceptions. Sam Hutchinson, Kieran Lee and Bannan also worked tirelessly in midfield to close down their opponents.
It took a brilliant block from Chris Gunter to deflect a Forestieri effort over the bar on the hour mark after great play by Lee.
Had Wednesday grabbed a second at that stage, it would have probably ended Reading’s hopes of staging a comeback.
Ultimately, Carvalhal’s charges, not for the first time on their travels, were undone by a set-piece, Jake Cooper rising highest to plant a firm downward header into the bottom corner following a good delivery by Oliver Norwood. The Owls switched off defensively and paid the price.
As there inevitably always seems to be in a good western, there was late drama.
New Royals signing Yann Kermorgant, a second-half substitute, should have sentenced Wednesday to their first defeat in 2016 in the closing stages. The experienced Frenchman headed Norwood’s centre wide inside the six-yard box. It was a shocking miss.
“In my opinion, we had more of the clear chances but they had more of the ball,” insisted Carvalhal.
S“Keiren didn’t have any saves to make.
“We knew it was not going to be an easy game because they have really good players. It was a difficult game.
“We would have been lucky if we had won.
“It is one point and we are happy that we haven’t lost in 2016. Of course, we wish we had won but we got a point and that could be quite important in the future.”
The reality is the Owls were outplayed and second best for the vast majority of this game but stayed strong to grind out a result. That’s what good sides do. It was definitely a point gained, which is one more than they picked up at the Madejski Stadium a year ago.
What Wednesday have now is a proven goalscorer who belongs to them.
Hooper’s goals in the last three fixtures have single-handedly moved Carvalhal’s men into the Championship’s play-off positions.
Hooper’s a sharpshooter and gives the Owls that much-needed cutting edge in the final third.
Reading: Al-Habsi 7; Gunter 7, Cooper 7, Ferdinand 6, Obita 7; Williams 7, Norwood 6, Evans 6 (John 65, 6), Robson-Kanu 7; Piazon 5 (Kermorgant H-T, 6), Vydra 6. Substitutes: Bond, Taylor, Hector, Cox, Keown.
Owls: Westwood 7; Hunt 6, Sasso 7 , Loovens 6, Pudil 6; Wallace 6 (Helan 78), Hutchinson 7, Lee 7, Bannan 7; Forestieri 6 (Joao 71), Hooper 7 (Nuhiu 85). Substitutes: Price, Palmer, Semedo, Bennett.
Referee: Stephen Martin (Staffordshire).
Attendance: 18,972 (2,533).