Sheffield Wednesday comment: Full credit to caretaker boss Lee Bullen after their thrilling opening-day success at Reading

No manager, no problem.

Saturday, 3rd August 2019, 12:06 am
Updated Sunday, 4th August 2019, 6:43 pm
Owls caretaker boss Lee Bullen with Barry Bannan at the final whistle

After a difficult summer, the Owls desperately needed to put in a strong performance on the opening weekend of the new Championship season to lift the gloom around Hillsborough. A positive result to raise spirit levels following a build-up to the new campaign that had been far from ideal.

They got both the performance and result they were looking for at the Madejski Stadium.

Goals either side of half-time from Owls debutant Kadeem Harris, Sam Hutchinson and Lucas Joao ensured Lee Bullen kicked off his third stint as caretaker boss with three points.

Sign up to our Sheffield Wednesday newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Victory even lifted Wednesday, who were placed under a soft transfer embargo by the Football League earlier this summer after posting their last accounts late, up to top spot. "We are top of the league, say we are top of the league," chanted the Owls faithful at the final whistle.

No wonder Bullen soaked all the applause from the 2,200 travelling fans after a job well done.

His team delivered a professional, disciplined away showing. They could have buckled after Keiren Westwood's late sending off but, instead, showed great character to dig deep and grind out a result.

“The result was what you would have dreamed of, as for the performance we can do better," insisted Bullen.

It is true that there will be far sterner tests to come over the coming weeks and months. Reading are not a big, powerful football club at this level.

But that should not take anything away from the Owls, who executed their game plan to a tee and carried the greater attacking threat throughout.

Full credit to Bullen over his team selection and tactics as he took a small step to landing the Wednesday managerial role on a full-time basis.

Bullen's call to give Harris a debut was an inspired choice. Harris, signed as a free agent by Steve Bruce before his acrimonious move to Newcastle United last month, terrorised the Reading defence with his pace, strength and skill. Time and time again he bamboozled Andy Yiadom, making the ex-Barnsley man look downright foolish at times. Harris was a handful and the Owls' standout performer.

Yes, Wednesday did get the rub of the green prior to Harris's opener. Mo Barrow missed a sitter after Yiadom's first half attempt was blocked by Keiren Westwood. Barrow's close range effort was cleared off the line by Tom Lees, leaving the hosts launching fruitless calls for a penalty, claiming handball against the Wednesday skipper. TV replays suggest Lees may have got away with one.

It was a big turning point and the Owls ruthlessly made the most of their good fortune.

Can they still improve? Absolutely. For a start, they must tighten up defensively and cut out a few individual errors. They also need to work on their ball retention.

But as opening-day outings go, it could not have gone much better.