So trying to pick up from last week it was the visit of Sunderland that represented what many thought would be our sternest test of the season so far.
Being a newly relegated side from the Premier League I don’t think that anybody would be wrong in assuming that they would be a strong outfit and have some quality all over the pitch.
The game couldn’t have started any worse for Wednesday really with Jack Hunt having to leave the field for treatment in the first couple of minutes. The change of rules made a few years ago where players have to leave the field of play and are unable to re-enter until play has commenced is in my opinion utterly ridiculous.
This was highlighted when whilst Hunt was waiting to come back on Sunderland broke down our right back position and eventually scored. Now don’t get me wrong there is an argument that we were somewhat naive in allowing this space to appear and the rush of blood that saw Keiren Westwood race out of his goal was a very uncommon incorrect decision by him, but it just highlights to me the unfairness of this crazy rule.
Wednesday were punished for having a man injured and made to leave the field and I am yet to meet anyone involved in the game who thinks this is correct.
Going one down obviously knocked what little confidence we had taken into the game and we were understandably shaken for the start of the game.
I was interested to see Almen Abdi playing in his preferred role in behind the strikers, at the tip of a midfield diamond and I decided to watch him very closely to see what he could produce. The jury is still out on him since his arrival at S6 and he has been dogged by injury. Unfortunately he looked one paced, laboured and really struggled to get into the game in any way really.
He looks like a player desperately lacking in confidence and I wasn’t the least bit surprised that he didn’t appear after half time. It’s a difficult one as to where to go next with him really. Carlos can ill-afford to give him a four or five match run in the side if his performances are as they were last week, you can't carry players in that way in this highly competitive league, but he needs to gain some confidence form somewhere and hopefully will start producing the level of consistent creative play that we have been waiting for.
The second half was a much better display, up until then, probably our best so far this season. Adam Reach played as a full back and a winger all in the same game and his work rate was incredible. That pitch is a hell of a big area to cover, it doesn’t do it justice sat up in the stands and he literally ran his blood to water on the night, fantastic!
A thunderbolt from Jones secured us a point and to be honest there was only one team in it for the last thirty minutes or so. We looked better with Gary Hooper in the hole behind the strikers; he drifts into areas that ask questions of the centre-backs or the holding midfielders and is very clever in how he does it. He was unlucky when his strike clipped the top of the bar and I thought Sunderland were made to look extremely ordinary as the game went on. Overall, probably a fair result although we could have nicked it second half and more than the result for me was the performance which was something more like was to be expected.
Fernando Forestieri was again left out of the squad and afterwards Carvalhal said that he had been disciplined and he would decide when he would be included again. This obviously stoked the fire again of his departure but just three days later he was included in the trip to Fulham and it seems it is carry on as normal!
Away to Fulham was, on paper, going to be a very difficult afternoon's work. They hadn’t started the campaign so well but neither had we and it seemed a very long time ago that they came to Hillsborough at the end of last season with us both vying for a play-off place. Carlos went back to a traditional 4-4-2 with Boyd coming back in to the team along with Fox at full back. Yet again we seemed to start the game at a lower tempo, pace of play and this gave a hesitant Fulham team the encouragement to come at us.
We have a tendency to start games at a slower pace and it increases as the game goes on, whether this is a plan or just how the game pans out I don’t know but I would love us to come out of the traps flying and really take the game to someone early on. Fletcher's goal in the second half gave us a fabulous advantage and finishing the game with a clean sheet secured our first three points of the season and it was a fabulous result. Again there were some excellent performances following on from midweek with Adam Reach and Barry Bannan catching the eye again.
I’m was sure Carlos would change his first eleven for the cup game but with the depth of squad that we have and the fact that it is the start of the season everyone should be vying for place and giving their all for the cause.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t to happen, a very strong team was put out against Bolton and yet with 25 minutes to go Sheffield Wednesday were 3-0 down. Let me say that although it ended as a 3-2 loss was it really good enough? I don’t think so. With the team that was picked we should be winning such games but keeping everyone happy and firing on all cylinders is not an easy job.
The modern game is all about man management as much as tactics, recruitment and strategy and to be honest I don’t think that anyone would suggest that the result and performance against Bolton was good enough or acceptable. Keeping players 'onside' isn’t difficult when things are going well and the place is buzzing. The difficulty comes when you hit a sticky patch or results and performances aren’t quite up to what you want or expect.
An away trip to Burton now awaits us which on paper wont be easy so lets hope the guys can get back to winning ways....UTO!
Jon Newsome is the owner of prestige, sports and performance cars specialists, Automarques 21-23 Leigh Street, Sheffield S9 2PR