Big game, big atmosphere ... no problem for Sheffield Wednesday in Portsmouth clash - Alan Biggs

Not much beats the atmosphere at Hillsborough when something is riding on the last game of the regular season.

By Alan Biggs
Wednesday, 27th April 2022, 12:10 pm

The important thing is that, this campaign, Sheffield Wednesday have not allowed the pressure of playing to big crowds beat them.

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With the home form bearing powerful testimony to that, it would be a major surprise - not to say a let down of magnificent support - if Darren Moore’s team did not do the necessary on Saturday.

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There is expected to be a near sell-out crowd at Hillsborough on Saturdy when the Owls take on Portsmouth with a play-off place at stake

It hasn’t always been this way. Some Owls teams have wilted under the expectation. Not this one.

For all the palpitations, this Wednesday squad - you must say squad and not team with 30 odd players used - has emerged unbeaten from 20 of 22 home league games, 15 of which have been won.

And I believe an even more significant figure is 21 - the number of players in this group who have played higher than League One, many with distinction.

That is very arguably why the Owls have kept their nerve in a notoriously hard league to escape and why I fully expect them to do the same in the league finale with Portsmouth to clinch a play-off place.

It’s had to be far harder won than the norm because 82 points would ordinarily have been enough for automatic promotion.

There’s probably not a player in the dressing room who wouldn’t admit that a squad of this experience and quality should have gone up in first or second.

But a mission of this sort does call for extra resilience when every game is a cup final - as you can expect Saturday to be regardless of Portsmouth seemingly having nothing to play for.

A certain George Hirst will surely have long ringed this fixture and Pompey boss Danny Cowley, once in the frame for the Owls job, is a hugely competitive animal.

For all manner of reasons, historical and quite recent, the script seems to have been written for the son of Owls legend David Hirst to score, adding to his midweek brace in the win over Wigan that took his season’s tally to an impressive 14.

Whether he does or doesn’t, Wednesday have shown the collective resolve to get this part of the job securely done.

A point could well be enough but, with chasing rivals Sunderland, Plymouth and Wycombe sharing almost identical goal differences, only two points separate four clubs and one will miss out.

Moore’s men can’t leave that to chance. Play for a draw at your peril. Wednesday’s many hard-nosed pros will be more than aware of that.

They have also shown the mental strength to make Hillsborough crowds a help rather than a handicap. And there should be one more time for that before this season is out.