Dom Howson: How Sheffield Wednesday can turn around their away fortunes

All seemed well at S6 two months ago when the Owls turned on the style to thump Garry Monk's former club Middlesbrough.

Thursday, 28th November 2019, 6:26 pm

Their stunning first half performance at The Riverside overwhelmed Boro and the result moved Monk's men up to seventh, just three points shy of table-topping West Bromwich Albion after nine outings.

But Wednesday have struggled to build on that impressive victory, winning just two of their last nine outings.

They have gone four matches without a victory on the road, slipped out of automatic promotion contention and face an anxious wait over an English Football League charge that could have serious ramifications on their future.

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Owls striker Steven Fletcher in action against Birmingham City

These are testing times for the Owls and Monk urgently must find a winning formula to cure their away form, starting at mid-table Charlton Athletic this weekend.It is not that Wednesday have performed badly on their travels. Far from it.

No way should they have lost at Hull City, Blackburn Rovers or WBA. Missed opportunities, a lack of luck and one lapse in concentration at the back cost them dearly against the Tigers while Blackburn and WBA made them pay for defensive mistakes and poor game management.

They also should have been out of sight after an outstanding first half at Cardiff City, but their lack of a cutting edge came back to haunt the Owls late on when substitute Lee Tomlin curled in a controversial free-kick.

What needs to change for Wednesday to rectify their away results? Tightening up their leaky defence would help for a start. Their last clean sheet away from Hillsborough came in Monk's first match in charge at Huddersfield Town on September 15.

Has the time come for Wednesday to tweak their approach? Monk has deployed a 4-1-4-1 formation in the last three away fixtures, with Sam Hutchinson utilised in the holding midfield role.

Yet there have been times when top-scorer Steven Fletcher has cut an isolated figure up front in recent weeks. Fletcher is strong in the air and always wins his fair share of aerial duels but sometimes he has simply not had enough support from midfield when he has flicked the ball on. Consequently, attacks have broken down and the Owls have lost possession.

Some Wednesdayites have expressed their frustration on radio phone-ins and social media over Monk's tactics away from home and urged him to ditch the 4-1-4-1 system and play two forwards.

It worked a treat pairing Fletcher and Atdhe Nuhiu together at Middlesbrough but less well four days later at Hull when Sam Winnall played alongside Nuhiu with Fletcher unavailable due to injury.

If Wednesday are to go on a good run again, it is essential they sharpen up in the final third. It is what is holding them back and why they have thrown so many points away.

Playing an adventurous team with more attacking thrust could improve their hopes of staying in touch with the play-off pack.