Sheffield Wednesday match report: Millwall 0 Sheffield Wednesday 0 – Strong defensive showing provides positives for Owls
Let's start with a few positives.
Wednesday have shored up their leaky defence, recording eight clean sheets from their last 12 matches. It is no mean feat to keep four league shut outs on the bounce at this level.
Centre-halves Michael Hector and Jordan Thorniley were rock-solid as the Owls repelled everything a big, physical Millwall side had to throw at them at The Den. In the absence of club captain Tom Lees, Thorniley has impressed in the last two outings and given manager Steve Bruce plenty to ponder.
Full-backs Liam Palmer and Morgan Fox acquitted themselves well and goalkeeper Keiren Westwood expertly commanded his area.
For Wednesday, the draw means they are three matches unbeaten under Bruce. They have yet to concede a goal since his arrival. It gives him a platform to build on.
The result also ends the Owls' sorry run against teams from the capital. Wednesday entered the contest having lost their last six league matches against teams from London, including five away games in that time.
What Bruce urgently needs to address is their attacking play. The Owls have scored just four times in 2019. They remain a work in progress and there looks no quick fix to their problems in front of goal.
There was a minute's applause before kick-off in memory of Sheffield-born goalkeeper Gordon Banks, who passed away at the age of 81 on Tuesday morning.
As for Wednesday, Bruce shuffled his pack for their second fixture in four days. He handed first-team recalls to Joey Pelupessy and Lucas Joao, leaving out George Boyd and Fernando Forestieri.
The first half, though, belonged to Millwall. The Owls were second best in all departments.
Millwall, scrapping for survival, adopted a direct approach and went close to taking the lead in the eighth minute. Mahlon Romeo floated in a teasing delivery towards the back post that Ben Marshall, who enjoyed a productive loan stint at Hillsborough during the 2011/12 campaign, headed back across the face of goal only for Michael Hector to slice the ball over his own crossbar.
It took an outstanding block from Liam Palmer to deny Marshall a sight at goal after more good approach play by the hosts. Aiden O'Brien, recalled to the Lions team at the expense of Ben Thompson, was also brilliantly foiled by Sam Hutchinson.
Although Wednesday were well-organised and strong defensively, the visitors looked short on confidence and ideas as an attacking unit.
After Jordan Thorniley clumsily brought down Ryan Leonard 25 yards out, Jed Wallace's fierce free kick forced Keiren Westwood into action. Westwood was then equal to Romeo's well struck volley as Millwall continued to dominate.
Bannan, making his 150th Owls appearance, was utilised on the left flank and struggled to influence proceedings. But the talented Scot drifted infield in the dying embers of a dour first half and slipped a lovely pass in behind Millwall's defence to release Palmer but the full-back's low delivery was cleared away by Shaun Hutchinson.
"The first half left a lot to be desired," admitted Bruce.
Bruce freshened things up at the interval, taking off the ineffective Pelupessy for Boyd.
And Wednesday were much-improved after the tactical change. Boyd's introduction enabled Bannan to revert to his favoured central role. It gave the Owls a better balance in midfield and Bannan pulled the strings with his vision and diverse passing range.
After Millwall only partially cleared Morgan Fox's cross, Joao showed nimbled footwork in the penalty area before seeing a rasping left foot shot parried by Jordan Archer.
Jed Wallace then outwitted Fox at the other end, floating in a delightful centre into the danger zone but Westwood was equal to O'Brien's glancing header.
Reach, unusually quiet by his high standards, surged forward and let fly from long range. His 25 yard attempt was comfortably gathered by Archer.
Bannan received the first booking of the evening after crudely bringing Murray Wallace down near the halfway line.
Millwall kept probing for the opener and O'Brien glided past Hector before stinging the palms of Westwood on the hour mark.
Devoid of creativity and inspiration in the opening 45 minutes, Wednesday showed far more adventure and attacking intent after the break. Shaun Hutchinson produced a vital clearance to cut out Boyd's low delivery from the right and Hector came within a whisker of connecting with Reach's deep cross as Bruce's side threatened to break the deadlock.
But the Lions upped the ante late on. Steve Morison, a second half replacement for O'Brien, miscued a shot when well-placed after beating the Owls' offside trap.
Moments later, Jordan Thorniley came to Wednesday's rescue. He cleared Marshall's header off the line after a fine move involving Lee Gregory and Morison.
Fletcher almost grabbed a goal with the last kick of the game but the big centre-forward fired wide.
Bruce said: "I thought we were better in the second and arguably created the better chances. We were better when we made the switch and we might have nicked it at the end with Fletcher's chance.
"We now have to find a way to have more of a cutting edge in the final third but that will come."