Sheffield Wednesday: Supporters boost Owls cause

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CHARLTON’S appeal for volunteers to help clear their pitch of snow reminded me of when the then Wednesday groundsman was left shaking his head at the sight of a huge pile of grass behind the North Stand.

It had been unintentionally stripped off the Hillsborough pitch by shovel-bearing fans who had responded to a similar appeal by the Owls and it was left behind when the snow melted.

Undersoil heating is the modern answer to snow or ice but if your club don’t have it then obviously it’s a problem: postponements are not just inconvenient; they can cause cash-flow problems for hard-up clubs, which may explain why outfits at the lower end of the scale sometimes make desperate efforts to get games on.

It was a feat by Carlisle when they kept their pitch playable for a game against the Owls two seasons ago.

I doubt if Wednesday’s groundstaff appreciated a training session on the Hillsborough pitch two days before the Wolves game! But there was little else that Dave Jones could do if proper preparation for the game was to be carried out, and with the training ground frozen.

The Owls groundsmen have done a grand job in their maintenance work this season, and only recently has the surface begun to show a few small signs of inevitable winter wear.

The condition of the stadium surrounds and external roads and footpaths was the only thing that was going to threaten the Wolves match.

But in view of the weather, I thought the attendance of 21,142 was very good.

The home average for league games, 23,267, is the third best in the Championship.

Brighton, in their relatively new stadium, are top with 25,579 and Derby second with 23,284, only 17 more than Wednesday.

By co-incidence, Brighton, a week on Saturday, and Derby, the Saturday after that, are the next two vistors to Hillsborough, so you could say that their fans will be helping to lift the Owls towards first place. Wednesday have of course already played Brighton and Derby away.

The Owls support for home and away games is well known and it has held up remarkably well in a season that has been difficult for the team.

I’m sure the club never forget how lucky they are, and it’s certainly not something that can be taken for granted.

There will be a fair few on the road for tomorrow’s game at The Valley, travelling with some confidence, I should think, after the recent away results and performances.

I don’t want to tempt fate, but the team seem to find it easier to score goals away than at home, these days.

The visit of Charlton on December 22 was an exception, however.

We cannot really expect a repeat of that game tomorrow: the goals were of a calibre that comes along rarely, twice in one game, anywhere in the country: a stunning volley, by Rhys McCabe, and a brilliant run and shot, by Jeremy Helan.

The most recent away goals were a bit of a mixture, at Hull: Reda Johnson’s close-range header, an own goal by the goalkeeper, and a solo effort by Michail Antonio. But any sort of win will do.