Here’s a starting point of sorts. No, not so much the scrape to three points against Bolton that gave Sheffield Wednesday a first win in seven games.
More an indication from the manager, when we spoke afterwards, that he intends to keep together the defence of the Owls’ belated first two clean sheets of the season.
Let’s hope the rest of the side follows suit to give it some kind of continuity and consistency. Jos Luhukay insists that is his intention.
Frankly, looking at much of the performance against an even poorer Bolton, Wednesday’s upfield players didn’t look as if they knew what they were doing or what was expected.
It was as if they were kicking uphill.
But let’s go back. Back to the back line. It’s two clean sheets in three matches, including the derby at Bramall Lane. And the common denominator is that these players have figured in both games (in differing formations) – Tom Lees, Michael Hector, Jordan Thorniley and Ashley Baker.
Baker, after two commendably athletic stints in the last week’s Hillsborough double-header, is suspended and can’t figure at Blackburn on Saturday.
But, as a thread of continuity, Luhukay intimated that the other three would do.
He also indicated that his rationing of Fernando Forestieri, who changed the Bolton game by his mere presence, and Lucas Joao was related to recent injuries.
He’s looking to get both involved more regularly, along with Marco Matias, while leaning heavily on “fitness data.”
But the fact is Luhukay needs much more, in both results and performances, to reverse a tidal wave of opinion against him.
And he will know that better than anyone. I’m not entirely sure he would have survived a failure to beat Bolton, achieved by a solitary goal.
This column has been sympathetic in that he’s been dealt a bad hand.
But that only stretches so far with the quality of player at his disposal.
While the Owls were a little unlucky to lose to a good team in Derby last Saturday, they floundered for long periods against a very poor one in Bolton on Tuesday.
It was a predictably nervy game. At least it put six points between Wednesday and the bottom three.
They now have 23 points. That’s still half a dozen points short of where I think the Owls should be with this squad.
A positive always beats a negative. The view from here has been protective of this manager by understanding of the difficulties of resolving problems he did not create.
However, he will know – as his players have acknowledged also – that mid-table is a bare minimum.
While I think some of the supporters’ more contemptuous judgments have been harsh, the Bolton buffer has to be more than a reprieve if Luhukay is to regain some measurable support from the masses. I hope he does.
What did redeem things a touch in midweek was that the bigger players came to the fore – in the second half at least. Skipper Tom Lees headed the decisive goal, Barry Bannan orchestrated the side forwards and back, and Adam Reach maintained a threat.
More please, gentlemen. And the rest.