Match analysis: Positive vibes return to Sheffield Wednesday as Owls lay solid foundations for the future  

Jos Luhukay and Cameron Dawson embrace after the Owls' win at Reading
Jos Luhukay and Cameron Dawson embrace after the Owls' win at Reading

Positivity is spreading around Sheffield Wednesday after a summer of discontent.

The team's performances keep on getting better and momentum is building after three consecutive Championship wins.

Saturday's victory at lowly Reading lifted them into the top half of the table and confirmed their best start to a season since Dejphon Chansiri bought the club in 2015.

On top of their improved results, key men Barry Bannan and Lucas Joao have signed new long-term contracts, the club's transfer embargo has been lifted and two new faces arrived from two top Premier League clubs before Friday's 5pm loan deadline.

The last couple of weeks have lifted the gloom around the place. The green shoots of recovery are there for all to see after a frustrating start.

Their dismal defeat at Brentford seems like a distant memory now. Things are on the up.

"We are going in a positive direction," acknowledged Luhukay. "Of course, results and winning games helps you make the progression you want.

"It is better to look at the top of the league than down the league.

"We have worked hard for that and we have done things 100 per cent in the last few games. It is what my team must do.

"We have in defence, midfield and attack quality but you have to have team spirit, passion and ambition to win games in the Championship. It is always hard and tough to win games in this league."

Luhukay is right. There are no gimmes in the second tier. Every point has to be earned, which is why winning three matches on the bounce is no mean feat. It is that level of consistency which is required to mount a promotion charge.

FLYING OUT OF THE BLOCKS

And it was refreshing to see the Owls make a fast start against Reading. Too often in the past Wednesday have been guilty of sitting back, particularly away from home, and letting the opposition take the initiative.

No so in Berkshire.

The Owls started on the front foot and played with a real verve and at a high tempo. It was an electric start and Adam Reach deservedly fired them in front in the 12th minute after lovely approach work by Barry Bannan and Matt Penney.

"It was one of them where it came nicely and I just decided not to thump it and try to put too much power on it," said Reach, who also registered in the cup win over Sunderland. "I put it back where it came from and tried not to put too much power on it.

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"For me personally, I'm very happy to get another goal but I just want to improve again now."

It was a fine team move and came minutes after Lucas Joao had a stinging right foot shot acrobatically tipped over by Vito Mannone.

Luhukay said: "It was a fantastic first goal with good combinations.

"It was not an easy ball for Adam to score from but he took it well."

As Luhukay pointed post match, Wednesday lost control for a 20-minute period in the first half and nearly handed a Reading side short on confidence and quality a route back into the contest. David Meyler glanced narrowly wide from a Leandro Bacuna free kick before Cameron Dawson produced a smart block in a one-on-one situation to foil Mo Barrow.

SECOND GOAL

But Joao gave the Owls a crucial two-goal cushion within 16 seconds of the restart. Reach turned provided, laying the ball off to the Portuguese forward, who curled an unstoppable right foot shot from outside the penalty area past Vito Mannone. It was Joao's third goal in his last two outings and the best of the lot.

"I know Lucas's qualities," said Luhukay. "He can make important goals and give us assists.

"He is good offensively and defensively from set pieces. We know what we have in Lucas."

Wednesday would have only had themselves to blame had they dropped points on the road. Atdhe Nuhiu arguably should have made it 3-0 on the hour mark after latching on to Joao's pass but was denied by the agility of Mannone.

Moments later, the visitors switched off from a corner and Royals skipper Liam Moore headed home to set up a grandstand finish.

But the Owls held their nerve to record their best start to a second-tier season since 1991 when the club were promoted to the top division.

Academy graduates Dawson, Penney and Jordan Thorniley continue to grow in stature, Joey Pelupessy shone in the defensive midfield role alongside the influential Bannan while Marco Matias, Joao and Nuhiu also worked tirelessly in attack.

THINGS TO WORK ON

No one should get carried away. This Wednesday team are not the finished article by any stretch of the imagination. 

Defensively the Owls need to tighten up. They have yet to keep a clean sheet in the league and there remains a tendency to play out a little too much from the back.

The next half a dozen fixtures will give us a indication of where Wednesday are at and what they might achieve this season. But one thing is for sure: there is a real platform to progress.

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