Bellows from the side and a new creative hub: six big takes from Sheffield Wednesday's 0-0 draw with Watford
Was it the best nil-nil ever seen at Hillsborough? Not by a long chalk. Was it a continuation of everything the Owls have been building towards in the last month or so? Quite possibly.
Sheffield Wednesday faced up against a Watford side gunning for promotion and came out on top, particularly in a first half that saw them dominate.
Let’s take a look at six talking points from a satisfying draw at S6.
Whether he has been liberated by the lack of weight of the armband or whether he’s got a point to prove, he’s doing it at the very heart of the Owls’ defence.
The question marks laid over him last season have been halfway allayed in just a handful of games and the way he’s led the back line suggests Wednesday can live without Chey Dunkley for now at least. He’s made the most of a head start Dunkley has to claw back when available.
Lees spoke passionately about his standing in the club after the game – and there’s more to come on that this week – but if he has a point to prove he’s proving it after the captaincy was stripped from him in the off-season.
He has led a back three that is yet to concede this season and let’s face it, that’s an upshot that only the most optimistic of Wednesday fans could have forecast this season. Dominic Iorfa and Joost van Aken? Impressive too. Four clean sheets from four.
"PREEEEESS” he said from ball one. And press they did. Hughes, from the sidelines in a Hillsborough bereft of supporters and therefore theatre, set the tone for a first half performance that saw the Owls take the ascendancy for the majority of the game.
There’s been a lot said and written about Hughes in just a few weeks of his Wednesday life, but it does feel as if he sets the tone for the ebb and flow of what happens on the field, his intensity and passion drifting through every pass and every movement of the Owls attack.
There will be times where his pushing appears to fall on deaf ears, when the players fail to push his passion into action, but a month or so into the season he feels like one of the more astute signings Garry Monk could have made.
They turned up with the reputation of a side that is likely to challenge for the title and for a while.. Not so much.
That was as much about Wednesday’s defensive offering as anything else and for a side that pays out the Premier League big bucks as the Hornets do, you’d expect more.
The Owls, in what Monk had described as their toughest test of the season, held more or less firm in what was a step up from the Walsalls and the Rochdales of the campaign so far. Cardiff? A different battle; more physical, more direct than a Watford keen to get the ball down and play.
The fact is that the Owls didn’t let them play for the most part, particularly in the first half, and that quelled a Hornets threat that expected to rock up at Hillsborough and get the same easy ride of so many before them.
It’s all been on Barry Bannan for too long. Like, for far too long. For large parts of last season he was the creative hub of Sheffield Wednesday alone and was fighting a one-man battle for those in front of him. No more. Izzy Brown has the powers Bannan has yearned for, so much so that for the first time in a long time the little Scot wasn’t entrusted with every set piece and every run of play.
Brown has a physical presence Bannan can’t quite offer and can pull a game into his realm the same way Bannan can. The two of them in tandem? You’d fancy there aren’t many Championship sides with the firepower in behind the front line and if Wednesday can fire up top there will be games they dominate.
With Massimo Luongo crashing around and breaking up play they have the perfect foil and while the Owls may well lose the box to box output we saw from him when he was at his best in the failing second half of last season, it may well be that Luongo has a different role to play this season. More disciplined, more in place.
The first choice midfield three seems to be doing its bit, and Brown is the difference.
You know what? The way Wednesday played, you fancy a crowd would’ve made a massive difference.
The intensity and heart the Owls showed in the first half would’ve had a Hillsborough crowd rocking and the tired legs they showed in the second half would’ve been injected with adrenaline. You fancy the Wednesday crowd – up and at it – would’ve changed the game.
When the crowds are let back in we don’t know – there were pilots across the EFL this weekend – but with the good feeling and life in Sheffield Wednesday at current you have to think it would be a bonus for Garry Monk’s men.
The huddle at Cardiff was one thing, a show to those outside the inner circle that the Owls meant business, but they followed through on that at Hillsborough.
Talk is cheap and gimmicks are too easy. They battles with a genuine heart and passion they lacked throughout the year so far, they pressed, harried and bustled the Watford defence in a style and panache that we have not seen for many months.
There is something that Garry Monk and his new-look backroom staff has tapped into. And you know what? It’s exciting.