Sheffield Wednesday: Player's focus no cause for concern after breezy display at Northampton Town
Hidden away in the soap opera script of Steve Bruce’s exit from Sheffield Wednesday, there is a football club trying to prepare for a Championship season.
And as those preparations rolled into the Midlands for a friendly at Northampton Town this evening, caretaker boss Lee Bullen was able to utilise the full breadth of the Wednesday squad to put out a different side in each half.
They ran out breezy 4-0 winners and the Wednesday players, now into the third match of their preparations and with the days before their season opener at Reading disappearing one by one, seem to be going about their business with admirable focus despite the white noise sounding from above.
The squad have looked sharper than their opponents in every outing so far, the likes of Morgan Fox, Kadeem Harris, Barry Bannan and Fernando Forestieri catching the eye while others churn out handy passages of play and competent defensive performances.
It’s been said before, but if Steve Bruce’s last act as Wednesday manager is to leave the squad fit and firing thanks in no small part to the work of fitness guru Tony Strudwick, then it is one he should they should appreciate.
But the more testing challenge in a situation such as this, it could be argued, isn’t in flexing the muscle fibres, but in keeping the six inches between the players ears on task.
On tonight’s evidence, that Lee Bullen and co appear to be doing just that. Half-chances had come and gone by the time a well-taken Adam Reach finish opened the scoring on 17 minutes after some slick work in the middle of the field by Forestieri.
Reach, operating on the right-hand side of the Owls attack, had the beating of his opposite man and looked sharp throughout his showing, as did Steven Fletcher, who thundered a shot at the post before winning himself the opportunity to score from the spot on the stroke of half-time.
The danger in making 11 changes is perhaps that all sting and momentum is taken out of the occasion, of course, but the Owls’ second half crew continued the good work of their predecessors.
New kid on the block Kadeem Harris, chest puffed after an eye-catching display at non-league Stocksbridge, looks an exciting piece of business, as does the athletic Moses Odubajo who spent his evening overlapping on the right.
But it was a more recognisable face, that of big Atdhe Nuhiu, that found space in the box to make it three on the hour mark.
Equally comfortable in possession and in defence, Wednesday’s dominance saw out the rest of the half almost without incident, Cameron Dawson able to enjoy a pleasant view of the Northamptonshire sunset without marking his gloves.
Cherries were thrown atop cakes when some Barry Bannan by-line brilliance set Jordan Rhodes up for a classy finish – dragging the ball out of the defence’s reach before hammering it home to make it four. Whoever appears as Bruce’s replacement has a decision to make on that front.
There are likely to be a few of causes for concern for Sheffield Wednesday fans in the coming days and weeks, but as it stands, the eleven men passing footballs around in blue and white don’t seem to be one of them.