Sheffield Wednesday 0 Reading 0 – ‘There is a lot of work to do,’ admits Steve Bruce as the Owls fire a blank in his first home match
As he took his place in the home dugout for the first time since accepting the Owls job, Steve Bruce was given a rapturous reception by the home faithful.
Bruce waved to three sides of the ground after being introduced to the crowd before kick-off.
"The reception I got from the supporters was quite remarkable," said Bruce. "I'm really grateful.
“They’ve turned up in their numbers on an awful windy and rainy afternoon and it was great to see."
Following his warm Hillsborough welcome, Bruce could not resist a little dig at his former club Aston Villa. The nadir of that relationship came in an infamous moment when a supporter threw a cabbage at the 58-year-old after their 3-3 draw against Preston North End.
Bruce, sacked by Villa last October, quipped: "It was a bit different from the last b****y club I was at that's for sure! It is amazing what four months does!
"I hope I can reward the fans. I've had some good times in the Yorkshire area.
"I hope that I can put some smiles on a few supporters faces. They know there is a long journey ahead and you hope there is a bit of patience and I will do my upmost to get the team to where it needs to be and I'm looking forward to that challenge."
Bruce was forced to settle for a point on his home debut as Wednesday were held to a frustrating 0-0 draw with relegation-threatened Reading.
The hosts game plan was evident from the off. Wednesday played with a purpose and at a higher tempo, getting the ball forward quicker, and pressed further up the pitch.
In a horrible, swirling wind, the Owls created enough opportunities to have been out of sight at half-time.
George Boyd's effort was well saved by former Wednesday loanee Emi Martinez in the second minute, Steven Fletcher's tame low left foot curler was kept out, Adam Reach dragged wide when well-placed, Sam Hutchinson fired straight at Martinez from close range and Fernando Forestieri was also foiled.
As they did against bottom club Ipswich Town the week before, Wednesday wasted plenty of chances.
"The disappointment is we didn't take the real big chances, especially in the first half," said Bruce.
Reading, scrapping for their lives at the wrong end of the table, improved as the contest wore on and enjoyed a good spell of pressure in the second period.
It took some fine defending by Michael Hector and Sam Hutchinson to prevent Sone Aluko and John Swift from testing the reflexes of Keiren Westwood after a dangerous counter attack by the visitors.
It was a flat, pedestrian start by Wednesday and Westwood came to their rescue, tipping over Lewis Baker's deflected 25 yard drive.
Substitute Rolando Aarons injected some-much needed pace into the Owls' attack in the 65th minute. He looked direct and lively on the left flank.
"I was delighted for young Rolando, who came on and gave us a spark and something different in the wide area," said Bruce. "He has got a bit of pace and energy and will add to the squad in that respect."
Wednesday could have snatched maximum points deep into added on time after a superb run and delivery from Liam Palmer on the right flank but Reach scooped the ball over the top.
Forestieri said: "We are disappointed because we wanted to win. We need to improve and we need to start taking our chances. We put pressure on and we tried.
"Personally I had chances, Sam Hutchinson, Fletcher, and we need to improve.
"If we had scored the first goal, maybe it would have finished 4-0.
"This is the second game we have with Steve Bruce, now we need to keep going, work hard and improve things."
THE GOALS ARE NOT FLOWING
Wednesday's lack of a cutting edge remains a big concern. Given the firepower at their disposal, 34 goals in 30 league outings is a desperately poor return. You have to go back to December 8 for the last time the Owls scored twice in a match.
Reach's glaring miss late on epitomised their lack of belief and confidence in the final third.
Bruce said: "We had two or three wonderful opportunities to win the game.
"In the second half, Reading had a 20-minute spell where they changed a little bit and went more direct. They had one or two bits and pieces.
"But overall I've only been here a week and thankfully, we've kept another clean sheet. The remit to start with if you're conceding two goals every week, you're going to get beat and that's one thing we've arrested. Now we just need to be a bit more clinical.
“We know there is a lot of work to be done ahead.”
There is indeed.