A two-game ban and the red carpet – FIVE talking points from Sheffield Wednesday’s damaging loss to Birmingham City

A win would’ve gotten them out of the relegation zone, but it wasn’t to be…

Sunday, 21st February 2021, 12:00 pm

Sheffield Wednesday’s home form had been great. Five wins on the bounce at Hillsborough and they knew that a sixth would put them in a much more favourable league position, higher up the table and out of the Championship’s bottom three – putting some daylight between themselves and their opponents, Birmingham City.

On paper, the Owls should have won it. But as we know, the game isn’t played on paper, and this division is all about the idea that anybody can beat anybody.

It was an attritional game, as everybody expected, and the more it went on the more it looked like it’d be one goal that sealed it – for whichever side. At half-time it felt like either could snatch it, but when Liam Shaw was shown a second yellow the odds swung heavily in favour of the visitors.

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Not long afterwards Scott Hogan poked home which would prove to be the winning goal, and Wednesday were able to muster enough of a threat with depleted ranks to get themselves back into it.

Jordan Rhodes thought he’d done it in the final few minutes after his header was superbly saved by Neil Etheridge, but he hadn’t. And The Owls’ home run was brought to an abrupt and disappointing end.

We looked at some of the talking points from a wretched afternoon at Hillsborough…

Sheffield Wednesday's Liam Shaw was sent off against Birmingham City. (Pic Steve Ellis)

Marching Orders

It was the biggest moment of the game. Obviously we’ll never know, but there’s a fair argument for the fact that if Wednesday had kept 11 men on the field then they don’t lose that game.

Shaw knows that he let the team down with his sending off early in the second half, and that they were ultimately up against it as soon as that happened. Neil Thompson said afterwards that he was ‘devastated’ at his second red of the season.

There’s plenty to talk about regarding it. You could say that it shouldn’t have been his second yellow because of how soft his first one was. You could say that in years gone by there was absolutely nothing wrong with the tackle that led to his dismissal. But you could also argue that – in that position, already on a booking – was it necessary?

Some had questioned his commitment to the cause amid all the talk of Celtic, but that shouldn’t be up for debate. In some ways, maybe he was too eager to prove that commitment?

But regardless of that, Shaw will now be forced to sit out the next two games due to picking up his second red of the season, meaning that ‘Thommo’ will be forced into changing things up against Brentford and Luton Town.

It’ll be interesting to see who he goes for.

The Red Carpet

How many times have we seen it before? If you’re a team out of form, there’s a good chance that playing Wednesday could lead to a return to winning ways.

Forget the fact that Wycombe Wanderers picked up their first Championship win against the Owls. And that Preston’s first home win of the season came at their expense. Just look at the last five defeats…

Nottingham Forest - no wins in seven. Coventry City - one win in seven. Millwall - one win in seven. Stoke City - no wins in eleven. Birmingham City - no wins in six.

There’s still a long way to go, and plenty of points up for grabs. As the manager has pointed out, we’ll only know how crucial these defeats are when the final whistle goes at the end of the season, but it’s obviously a worry.

From 15 games against the teams in the bottom half of the table, Wednesday have picked up just 16 points from a possible 45 and scored just six goals.

Beating teams above you in the top half is all well and good, but you can’t help but feel that Wednesday need more against those around them if they’re to really secure their status as a Championship outfit.

The Goals

And while we’re talking about goals, there’s still not enough of them, is there?

For the most part, things have been better under ‘Thommo’. Wednesday have played more attacking football, and have scored more goals. But they still don’t look like a constant threat.

It’s been seven months since Wednesday last scored more than two goals in a game, and they’ve only won two league games by more than a single goal this season. Every game is physically demanding because they’re never really in control – even if they’re leading.

Tom Lees

Arguably the Player of the Season so far. He was one of only a couple to come out of the Birmingham game with any kind of credit, once again showing his mettle and commitment to the cause with a number of important interventions and blocks.

Since having the armband taken off him, Lees looks more and more like the reliable centre back that Wednesday fans took to their hearts a few years back.

But while he’s managing a level of consistency that’s admirable, he can’t do it alone. And even if he’s playing his part in stopping Wednesday conceding too many, he needs his teammates to come to the party further up the field.

He could have had one himself against Birmingham, but it was probably a case of ‘right place, wrong player’ after it dropped to him in the box.

The Pack

So while results earlier in the week went in Wednesday’s favour, over the weekend they were a bit more split.

Coventry, Huddersfield Town and Forest all got wins, while Rotherham United, Derby County and Luton were all beaten. Birmingham’s victory moves them out of the relegation zone and leaves the Owls firmly planted in it.

That could all change next week, obviously, but there’s no doubt that Saturday’s result at S6 will have hurt.

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