Improved Sheffield Wednesday dealt cruel blow as Danny Röhl’s tenure begins with defeat

Sheffield Wednesday’s new manager will have found positives in his first game in charge of the club, but the Owls’ wait for a win - and a goal - goes on after defeat by Watford.
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‘Danny, Danny Röhl… Danny, Danny Röhl’ came the chant before kick off. Wednesdayites packed out their Vicarage Road away allocation and channelled their inner Boney M to give their new German manager a warm welcome in his first game as a manager, and in many ways it felt like the start of a new season.

The fans, given a new lease on life by the recent changes and new additions to Röhl’s technical team, were in fine voice as matters got underway in Hertfordshire, and on the pitch their team seemed to respond.

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Plenty of changes were made from the 0-0 draw with Huddersfield Town, though, and the XI named by Wednesday’s new boss had more Xisco than Darren Moore about it, a decision being made to switch back to a back four with an almost even split of the old guard and new.

The first half was one of few chances, but the Owls felt more purposeful, with more of a semblance of purpose. In possession they kept the ball well, out of it they harried the Hornets and made sure that they were kept at bay. Their press – largely implemented by Callum Paterson – was impressive as well.

For half an hour the game was largely played out in the middle third, John Buckley impressing with his endeavour and drive alongside the returning Barry Bannan, who showed moments of the sort of quality that Wednesday fans have grown so used to seeing.

It was on the 30-minute mark that the first real chance of the game arrived, Jeff Hendrick clipping a wonderful ball into the box onto the head of Josh Windass, who couldn’t quite direct it goalwards and it sailed just over Daniel Bachmann’s goal. Wednesday’s returning attacker had been busy, his arrival back in the squad another boost in another positive week for Wednesday.

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There were no goals, and aside from a couple of dangerous crosses into the box, no real concern for Röhl’s organised Owls in the opening stanza, and after a strong finish to the half they’d have been the happier going in at the break.

And as time wound on it would remain so. Possession was in the hosts’ favour, but for so much of the game they did nothing with it. Wednesday, meanwhile, cranked up the pressure as the second half continued and could – maybe should – have taken the lead as a fantastic whipped cross from Windass found Hendrick in the box. Unfortunately it sailed over and into the Family Stand.

Moments later the away end let out a huge cheer as Anthony Musaba, who’d caused plenty of issues down the right, went down in the box under the challenge of Jamal Lewis and Dean Whitestone pointed to the spot. Could their long wait for a goal finally be over?

Not yet it wouldn’t. After a discussion with his linesman Whitestone overturned his original decision, the pair deciding that Lewis had won enough of the ball and awarding a corner instead. Much to the dismay of the travelling faithful.

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The visitors weren’t discouraged, though, and for a period they piled on the pressure. The home crowd – who had booed their team off after 45 minutes – were growing increasingly nervy, while the Wednesdayites cranked up the noise once again.

Real chances remained few and far between though, and as Musaba tired Röhl delved into his bench. Off came the Dutchman and on came Mallik Wilks. 15 minutes later the second change came, Reece James coming on for Buckley after the midfielder had enjoyed probably his most enterprising outing in Owls colours.

But Valerien Ismael’s side had a late push in them, and after making some strong substitutions it was there turn to have a spell of pressure. And one of those substitutions would prove to be the difference.

Yaser Asprilla, a teenage Colombian international, had been on the pitch for about five minutes when he picked up the ball on Wednesday’s left-hand side. For too long he was left unchallenged as he looked for a gap, and when he found one he took it well, arrowing the ball into the bottom corner of Cameron Dawson’s goal and into the back of the net.

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It felt cruel on the Owls, who had enjoyed good spells in the game, but – as has been the case so often – failed to take any chances that they did create. Fixing things up top and scoring more goals will be right at the top of Röhl’s agenda… It’s now been over a month since they got on the scoresheet.

Michael Smith and Lee Gregory were thrown on as a last roll of the dice, but it wasn’t to be. Defeat was cruel after a thoroughly even game, but it’s no real consolation as Wednesday remain bottom of the table, still winless, and without a goal in over 450 minutes.

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