WHAT is blue and white and flies high? A topical question in the week of the annual Bournemouth Air Festival. You might have said Sheffield Wednesday, especially if the Owls’ had won after taking the plane to the South Coast
But a more appropriate answer to the question would be some of the spectacular fireworks on the sea front on Friday night close to the team’s hotel.
By comparison the Owls’ display at the Seward Stadium [or Dean Court to most fans] the next day was a bit of a damp squib.
It was by no means the worst that the Owls have played in the last few months; nor was it the best.
They were not as ruthless in their finishing or defending as they had been in the previous week’s win against Rochdale.
What compounded the slip-up is that Bournemouth, having lost five major players during the summer, may well not be the same force in 2011-12 as they were in reaching the play-offs last season.
So this was an opportunity for the Owls to record their first-ever League win against the Cherries, albeit in only seven meetings.
It started reasonably well: Wednesday looking typically solid, with Danny Batth in rugged form, and they had an early half-chance, driven over the bar by Liam Palmer and created by Clinton Morrison.
Palmer returned the compliment by making, with an elegant run and final ball, the opening that could have set the match on a different course and was sidefooted past the far post in the 30th minute by Morrison, whose gesture of frustration said it all.
Bournemouth then caused a couple of alarms before taking their 38th minute lead, and it was not like the new Wednesday to be so vulnerable at a set piece.
A left-wing corner cleared Gary Madine and Rob Jones at the far post, and Adam Barrett, the Cherries captain and centre half who was signed from Crystal Palace in the summer, was free to power a header into the bottom corner.
Megson said: “We were in control before that. We gave a stupid corner away. Our marking from the corner was ridiculous - nowhere close to what it should be.”
One of Wednesday’s problems is that too rarely do they look like scoring, so they cannot afford to give away goals like that. In addition, Bournemouth defended well against the Owls’ set pieces.
We already knew that Wednesday could do with more pace, more attacking thrust. On Saturday they did not have that little extra, that spark, that turns a tight game a team’s way. In many areas, in fact, they were less impressive than in the 2-0 win against Rochdale
Even at 1-0 they were not out of it, though, early in the second half, a few long throws from Julian Bennett put the home team under pressure; a diving header by Jose Semedo, set up by a Lewis Buxton cross, flew over the bar from four yards, as did one by Jones from a little further out, provided by David Prutton.
Megson tried tactical variation and substitutions, and explained that none of the players taken off was injured.
“I was just trying to get fresh legs out there. There are players who, I know, can play a lot better; it was just a case of trying to get like-for-like on the pitch with fresher legs.”
Chris Lines was a bit of a plus - a tall central midfield forward with an aptitude for making forward runs.
In sending him on, Megson took off Chris Sedgwick and had Lines as the forward point in a midfield diamond.
Buxton, once taking advantage of space on the right flank, delivered a lovely ball from which Madine should have scored, in the 65th minute: the striker glanced a free, far-post header wide.
Jones cleared off the line from a shot by Liam Feeney but there were further, more difficult opportunities for Wednesday; a shot on the turn by Morrison, and a toe-poke wide by Buxton, under pressure.
The full back had a five-minute spell in central midfield, after Jon Otsemobor replaced Semedo; then James O’Connor went on in that position, with Buxton switching to left back and Bennett making way.
The Owls never really inspired confidence in their ability to score, and there was no coming back from a second goal in the 84th minute: winger Feeney threw the ball forward to Lyle Taylor then backed up the striker and foxed Buxton, cutting inside to find sub Harry Arter, who finished clinically from 12 yards.
It was the “crazy” way that Wednesday gave away the throw-in that upset Megson: “The left-side centre half passed to the full back and we stuck it straight into the advertising hoarding, you can’t do that. They went down the line and it was a good finish. But we caused our own issues.”
In summing up, and without naming names, he said: “People have played in a manner that surprised me. Everyone has a bad day, but the errors we made had to be seen to be believed.”
Cherries boss and former Owls loan striker Lee Bradbury felt that it paid off for him in trying to avoid an aerial approach: “I was proud of the team and I told them so at the final whistle.
“Sheffield Wednesday are a big strong side and they try to bully opponents with their physical prowess. But we were bright and quick, kept the ball on the ground and opened them up at times.
“Winning in the week against Dagenham [5-0] was a real confidence-booster and this will have done the same for us.”
The Owls seek a quick boost at Bury tomorrow.
We started fine, worked hard, had chances before they scored and missed them.
We made errors and caused ourselves problems. We had the ball on the halfway line, before the first goal; it led to a corner; we didn’t pick up; it was really slack marking.
Before the second goal, we had the ball at the back; there was no pressure on us and we rolled it out of play; they scored from the resulting throw-in.
We had chances but you have to take them. The important thing is always the first goal. That changes everything.
Once they scored, the crowd got into the game, it buoyed them, we huffed and puffed, and then the next goal was always going to be important for us; to lose it in the manner we did was ridiculous.