Sheffield Wednesday are no longer a meek and mild pushover - they're up for a scrap

It sounded like he wanted them to press.

By Alex Miller
Saturday, 19th September 2020, 4:55 pm
Updated Saturday, 19th September 2020, 4:55 pm

As the instructions of first team coach Andrew Hughes echoed from stand to stand in a barren Hillsborough, you wondered if it was as much for Watford’s benefit as that of Sheffield Wednesday.

For too long a trip to Hillsborough has been a gentle experience, for too long sides from up and down the Championship have arrived confident of an easy ride.

But not today. Not with this Wednesday. Not with the confidence, bullishness and aggression they showed under the Sheffield sunshine.

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Sheffield Wednesday's Kadeem Harris (left) and Watford's Ken Sema battle for the ball during the Sky Bet Championship match at Hillsborough, Sheffield. PA Photo. Picture date: Saturday September 19, 2020. See PA story SOCCER Sheff Wed. Photo credit should read: Tim Goode/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY No use with unauthorised audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.

“PRESS,” Hughes ordered with a scream that could lead a man to buy shares in Strepsils. “CATCH IT UP, ONE SIDE, BACK INNN!”

The Hornets, recently relegated and with a hefty swathe of their squad of the Premier League quality their wages would justify, will have arrived full of confidence that they could become the ninth away side to win at Hillsborough in just 13 matches this year.

The Owls have been meek and mild on home soil for too long, second-best, too passive.

The dark arts considered at Cardiff were back, too, the Owls rolling the ball away from Watford feet at every Hornets free kick, just enough but not so much as to endanger a yellow card, disrupting and slowing any away progress.

“PREEEEESSSSS!” Came the scream once again, time and again, pushing Wednesday on. All this within the first 10 minutes. Watford, setting up to play out from the back, must’ve wondered what was going on.

It’s early days, but every indication has been that there’s been a mentality change at this club. It’s apparent in the way the players held themselves at Hillsborough, the way they communicated and fought for causes they’d have cowered from previously.

Even front man Jordan Rhodes, a man whose a level of aggression would ordinarily make Tin Tin look like an MMA fighter, crashed into aerial balls and pressed as best he could.

Izzy Brown showed glimpses of his undoubted quality, the defenders continued their run of form and Massimo Luongo broke up play with class.

Were they at their most devastating going forward? No. Were there occasional half-lapses of concentration at the back? Yes. Did the Owls fail to get the goal that would’ve seen them nick the win their effort deserved? Certainly.

What is exciting is the thought of what could be with supporters allowed back into the ground. With a show of that first-half effort, with all the efforts made to re-engage with fanbase, you’d fancy Hillsborough would have been rocking. And in the second half, as legs grew tired, they’d have injected adrenaline.

And they did tire. Cameron Dawson made two fine saves to keep the sheet sparkling and as that second period went on Watford became the side most likely to steal three points.

But in the end they stood firm, took what is surely a good point from a side expected to challenge for the title this season and kept yet another clean sheet.

All this for a nil-nil? Why not? The Owls yet to concede, are still unbeaten and have grown as much as even the most optimistic of Sheffield Wednesday fans could have forecast.

Minus eight. Next up, cup frollicks at Fulham before a trip to Bristol City.

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