Uninspiring Owls slump again '“ Sheffield Wednesday 1 Ipswich Town 2
If Sheffield Wednesday are to avoid relegation this season it will more likely be because teams beneath them are just as bad rather than it being down to their own fighting spirit.
The Owls suffered a fourth league defeat on the spin at Hillsborough with Ipswich Town the latest to come away from S6 with all three points.
Martyn Waghorn’s double, either side of a Lucas Joao equaliser, did the damage on paper, but ultimately Wednesday brought it on themselves yet again.
The home side started reasonably well, looking a lot more secure at the back than in recent games with the old partnership of Tom Lees and Glenn Loovens providing a surety that has been sorely missed.
It was the midfield that was Wednesday’s main problem at that stage, though.
Adam Reach wasn’t having the same impact, having been moved into a wider role, and little was being created, with the front men of Jordan Rhodes and Atdhe Nuhiu feeding off scraps.
In the opposition camp, Ipswich offered very little themselves from an attacking perspective and made an early change with Mustafa Carayol being replaced by Freddie Sears after just 25 minutes.
The first chance of the match fell to Wednesday a couple of minutes later and what an opportunity it was.
Jacob Butterfield went on a decent run but was being crowded out in his attempt to find a pass. The midfielder eventually had a shot which deflected into the air and landed perfectly for Nuhiu to connect with a blistering volley. Owls fans thought that was the breakthrough but Town keeper Bartosz Bialkowski, from point-blank range, managed to beat the ball away for a corner.
That lifted the crowd and prompted a short period of pressure from the home side, but they continued to find Ipswich difficult to break down.
Aside from that effort from Nuhiu, neither side really looked like scoring for the majority of the first half, indeed both could barely muster a shot on goal.
Former Sheffield United loanee Cameron Carter-Vickers had a go from distance on 37 minutes and his effort was well-hit but well wide.
Wednesday had a decent break soon after, with George Boyd releasing Butterfield with an intelligent pass and he in turn fed Nuhiu, but the striker’s shot was blocked for a corner which came to nothing.
With Jordan Rhodes not getting much out of the Ipswich defence, Jos Luhukay went for a change of tack for the second half; Lucas Joao replacing the ineffective striker.
It was Ipswich, though, who would finally show their attacking intent after the break as Mick McCarthy’s side opened the scoring – thanks in no small part to that previously strong backline.
Loovens was muscled off the ball far too easily by Sears and then took too long to get back and cover after the substitute had sent the ball into the box. Callum Connolly headed back across goal and with Loovens nowhere to be seen, Waghorn knocked in his first goal in 15 games.
The lead was almost doubled three minutes later, but for Joe Wildsmith. Sears’ ball over the top, after more hesitant defending, found Connolly and his header was superbly turned over the bar by the Owls keeper.
Suddenly nerves had enveloped Hillsborough.
The team were giving the ball away with indefensible regularity and frustrated boos and jeers rung around the ground. That led to more tension on the pitch and even more errors.
There were a couple of half chances at the other end.
Joao had a penalty shout waved away as he went down under pressure from two Town defenders, while Nuhiu glanced a shot wide after Butterfield’s chip over the top.
Then, an unlikely breakthrough.
Joao picked up a through ball and danced his way into the box, twisting and turning, forever looking as though he’d missed the opportunity to shoot.
He was biding his time and when that time came, the Portuguese forward stroked the ball into the bottom right corner
Joao’s presence had certainly lifted Wednesday but they were still prone to mistakes and poor decision-making which was helping to maintain that air of nervousness around the ground.
The nerves turned to anger and frustration on 83 minutes when Waghorn curled in an excellent free kick from 16 yards out at an angle on the right. The ball found the top corner and Wildsmith was arguably too easily beaten.
That was that. Wednesday didn’t have enough about them to force their way back into the game and Ipswich plodded through the final stages.
Jeers rang around Hillsborough afterwards.
It’s hardly any wonder.
Sheffield Wednesday: Wildsmith, Palmer, Loovens, Lees, Fox, Boyd, Jones, Butterfield, Reach, Rhodes (Joao 46), Nuhiu. Subs: Dawson, Pelupessy, Pudil, Preston, Abdi, Venancio.
Ipswich Town: Bialkowski, Knudsen, Chambers, Webster, Sukuse, Waghorn (Garner 89), Spence, Connolly, Hyam (Ward 75), Carter-Vickers, Carayol (Sears 25). Subs: Crowe, Iorfa, Celina, Gleeson.
Referee: Oliver Langford (West Midlands)