Sheffield Wednesday 2 Barnsley 0 - High-intensity approach pays off for high-flying Owls
The template has been set for the season ahead.
Sheffield Wednesday's blue and white wizards have adopted an aggressive, high-octane pressing style in their opening two league matches. The team have played with freedom, creativity, pace, purpose and drive in their victories over Reading and Barnsley.
With new recruits Moses Odubajo, Kadeem Harris and Jacob Murphy having added genuine pace in the wide positions, Wednesday are now a more balanced, athletic, dynamic side. They look a lean, mean, fighting machine.
Time and time again Barnsley struggled to beat the press on Saturday. The Owls hunted them in packs and harried the visitors into submission, although Championship new boys showed their naivety by regularly attempting to play out from the back. Their possession-based game played straight into Wednesday's hands.
"The lads have really bought into it (the pressing game),” said Owls caretaker boss Lee Bullen. “It is something we worked on right from the beginning of pre-season with the previous manager. All the messages I have ever given since Steve [Bruce] moved up to Newcastle have been to try and keep things as clear and simple as possible."
The opener was a complete gift from Barnsley. Cameron McGeehan's misplaced pass found its way to Harris, whose initial shot was blocked only for Murphy to pick up the loose ball and calmly slot home. It took Murphy just 100 seconds to mark his debut in style. One touch, one goal.
Murphy and Harris terrorised the Reds down the flanks but Sam Hutchinson was a tower of strength in midfield and Julian Borner excelled at the back on his maiden Hillsborough outing.
The only disappointment for Wednesday was that they should have won by a far greater margin. They fluffed their lines in front of goal and Barnsley almost made them pay on the stroke of half-time but Cameron Dawson, standing in for the suspended Keiren Westwood, produced an excellent block to foil Cauley Woodrow inside the six-yard box. It was a key moment.
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Murphy, a lively figure throughout, was denied a blatant penalty after the break when Mads Andersen bundled him over.
But the Owls deservedly bagged a second on the hour mark, with Steven Fletcher rifling a left-foot shot into the bottom corner after a good surging run by Kieran Lee.
'We are Sheffield Wednesday and we are top of the league' chanted Wednesdayites in the North Stand.
Borner heroically cleared substitute Mamadou Thiam's effort off the line midway through the second half to keep the Reds at bay.
Massimo Luongo and Hutchinson could have put extra gloss on the scoreline but their finishing let them down in the dying minutes of an entertaining South Yorkshire derby.
Wednesday march on under Bullen. The players have responded to his methods and back-to-back wins has increased Bullen's hopes of securing the manager's job on a permanent basis.
When quizzed on the Owls being top of the table on goal difference, Bullen, with a wry smile on his face, said: "It is not bad to look at it is it?"
He is not wrong there.