A tired nail in a forlorn coffin: Talking points in Sheffield Wednesday's draw with Huddersfield
They huffed and they puffed. They took the lead. But Sheffield Wednesday are staring down the barrel of relegation to League One with more and more concentration with every passing fixture. Last night, the gap stretched to nine points as Birmingham City beat Reading while the Owls drew 1-1 with Yorkshire rivals Huddersfield Town.
It’s not over until it’s over of course, and stranger things have happened in football, but it would take something truly special for them to get out of this mess.
Have some talking points.
Another system switch-up..
Darren Moore said it would be horses for courses in the early days of his Hillsborough reign and he’s certainly stayed true to his word on that.
“We have different opponents coming, and different systems… As and when we see fit to change the system, we’ll change the system - or the personnel,” he said after the spirited defeat to Norwich.
The 3-4-3 variation – defending as a back five – used against Huddersfield was the third in four matches as the manager seeks to find a winning formula.
Did it work? They were forced deep for much of the match, the away side claiming the lion share of meaningful possession. Whether that was imposed upon them or they allowed them that freedom is one for Moore and Wednesday.
It was all change after an hour. One thing that the new boss has definitely shown in his young Wednesday career is that he’s not afraid of switching things up when he sees it necessary and it’s good to see.
It was 3,378 days since Jordan Rhodes scored four goals in a match between Sheffield Wednesday and Huddersfield Town at Hillsborough.
David ‘Call me Dave’ Cameron was less than a year in his Premiership at Number 10, Olly Murs was at number one with Dance With Me Tonight and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows was top of the box office. It was a simpler time.
And though some of the game passed him by, although at times he looked off the pace, it was a moment of old school Rhodes quality that got Wednesday going from nowhere.
The Terriers are the side he made his name for with an incredible run of form at that time and he is linked with a return there. It’s looking more and more likely that his future lies away from Hillsborough, where he’s had a miserable time of it.
He looked a dejected figure when he was swapped out for Callum Paterson after an hour but in many ways had done his job.
He’s missed chances, he’s been caught up in a storm in an expletive-laden teacup and he’s run his proverbials off. But in recent weeks nothing has quite gone for Josh Windass.
Until last night. Rhodes’ bit of quality to set him on his way was only half the job, maybe less, as the forward held off Naby Sarr to create space for a shot. And the finish past Ryan Schofield? Confident and sweetly-struck.
That goal, his seventh of the season, puts him alongside Callum Paterson as the Owls’ top scorer in all competitions. It’s been a frustrating season for the former Rangers man, but there have been signs that he could be a very useful player for Wednesday.
What division that’s in of course remains to be seen.
The overarching takeaway
You know what? This is a team exhausted, run down and completely shot of confidence. Low on quality, sure, but low on fight? It’s not the thing that bursts from that performance.
The table doesn’t lie. Even without a six-point deduction, this is a side that would be sat in the relegation zone. Save for a five-second moment of excellent between Rhodes and Windass, the Owls didn’t really look like scoring.
They’re a side trying to adapt to a talented new manager brought in too late and asked to throw water at a house that in many ways had already burned down.
Is that that?
It’s a question we’ve been asking for weeks now. Maybe since the defeat to Birmingham, probably since the second half capitulation at Luton Town, certainly since Freddie Ladapo’s injury time winner against Rotherham.
But after only a draw, after Birmingham’s coupon-busting win over promotion-chasing Reading, the nine-point gap is looking insurmountable.
In matches against the other clubs to have been embroiled at any stage this season; Wycombe, Rotherham, Birmingham, Coventry, Derby, Huddersfield and Forest, the statistics make for gory reading and goes a little way to explaining the clown car that has been their attempt to claw back their points deduction and stay in the Championship.
In 12 matches now they’ve won four, drawing one, failing to score in six of them. They’ve taken 13 points out of the relegation dogfight and have given 22 away. The scoreline in those matches reads 7-14.
They’ve passed-up 25 points from winning positions this season.
It is in these matches that the battle for Championship safety has been all but lost.
So, what’s next?
And that, in many ways, is where focus should probably shift in the coming weeks.
Mr Chansiri and those around him, will it be Darren Moore? Thousands of Wednesday fans are looking forward to you answering the question; what’s the plan?
Sheffield Wednesday: Westwood, Lees, Hutchinson (Urhoghide, 61), Borner, Palmer, Pelupessy, Bannan, Reach, Harris (Shaw, 61), Windass (Kachunga, 81), Rhodes (Paterson, 61)
Subs unused: Wildsmith, Marriott, Penney, Green, Hunt
Huddersfield Town: Schofield, Edmonds-Green (Mbenza, 45), Keogh, Sarr, Duhaney (Stearman, 81), O’Brien, Hogg, Pipa, Bacuna, Holmes (Sanogo, 60), Campbell (High, 90)
Subs unused: Pereira, Vallejo, Ward, Brown, Rowe