Fireworks at Hillsborough! – SIX talking points as Sheffield Wednesday climb out of the Championship relegation zone
Sheffield Wednesday have had a torrid record against Derby County, but they picked up a big, big win at Hillsborough on Friday night.
The Owls were up against a Derby side that came into the match on the back of a 4-0 victory over Birmingham, and they certainly looked like a confident side in the first half as they created a number of chances to go into the lead.
Colin Kazim-Richards came closest as his header cannoned off the crossbar midway through the first half, and there were plenty of other opportunities before Wednesday shifted things up as the half came to an end.
The second half was much better from the Owls, even before the goal, and when Callum Paterson bundled the ball over the line it felt like Wednesday may finally be getting a bit of luck their way.
They visibly tired as the game went on, but thanks to some tough defending – and a monster of a late block from Kadeem Harris – they held on to win back-to-back home games for the first time since back in December 2019.
Out of the relegation zone!
First and foremost, the win over Wayne Rooney’s Rams meant that Wednesday ended the night out of the relegation zone for the first time this season, and – depending on results elsewhere – could finish the first week of 2021 in 20th place, even with their six-point deduction.
On top of that, Wednesday achieved something that they haven’t done in almost four years – won three home games on the bounce. It was genuinely a huge win for Neil Thompson’s side.
Two loud voices missing
It was quiet before the game with no music or even ‘Hi Ho Sheffield Wednesday’ playing prior to kick off, but it was also a lot quieter on the field given the absence of both Chey Dunkley and Westwood.
The pair are both very vocal, very loud members of the side who can be heard clearly from up in the stands, but neither were deemed fit enough to make it into Thompson’s squad.
SWFC’s official Twitter account quoted the manager prior to the game as saying, “With Westwood and Dunkley, it's just a case of the games catching up with them. We've made a couple of tweaks, we know what to expect from Derby and hopefully we can build on the performance we put in against Middlesbrough.”
Meanwhile, Dunkley tweeted saying, “Unfortunately I picked up a grade 1 hamstring tear in the last game against Boro... Hopefully I’ll be back for the next league game... Hopefully the boys can keep this unbeaten run.”
The various positions that a number Wednesday players can – and have – played, makes it interesting when trying to figure out the formation that the manager is going for. It’s been that way under Garry Monk, Tony Pulis and now Thompson.
Looking at the starting XI that was named, there were a couple of formations that it could be, and there were a couple of players who could possibly play in different positions.
When they kicked off it looked like a 3-5-2 with Liam Shaw dropping to centre back in place on Dunkley, but towards the end of the first half it felt as though things shifted to a bit of a 4-4-2, with Odubajo at right back and Harris in front of him after Adam Reach moved onto the left side.
They came out the same way in the second half, and the switch did seem to work for them, and it may be something that Thompson looks to build on for Exeter – if a new manager hasn’t been appointed by then of course.
More injury concerns
Wednesday had their injury problems under both Monk and Pulis, and it doesn’t seem to have gotten too much easier for Thompson.
As previously mentioned, he lost Dunkley and Westwood ahead of this game, and then he was forced into an early substation when Josh Windass had to be taken off – and he looked to be holding his hamstring.
Fingers crossed that it’s not anything to worry about too much, because another injury – especially one in their already slim striking department – is not something that Wednesday need right now.
He’ll be assessed now by the Wednesday medical team, and one plus side is the fact that it’s a couple of weeks until the Owls return to league action, so he will have a bit of time to recover.
It’s been quite the couple of weeks for the young Wednesdayite… Scoring his first goal in front of a (sadly empty) Kop, to being shifted back into central defence and putting in a Man of the Match-winning performance in front of the Sky Sports cameras.
He was really solid alongside Tom Lees, and made more clearances (10) than any other player on the field. Under Monk he broke through, under Pulis he started to get more game time, and now under Thompson – a man who has known him all the way through the Owls academy – he looks to be taking things to the next level.
And not just on the field. Midway through the second half there was a bit of a firework display that felt like it was in the Hillsborough car park, there was a few people that got a fright when the first banger went off. You could physically see half of the journalists on the South Stand jump in their seats when it happened, and it’ll no doubt have been even louder for the players down on the pitch.