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Sheffield Wednesday: Why a relegation scrap is a real possibility ... Owls 1 Birmingham City 3

Marco Matias is sent off. Pictures: Steve Ellis
Marco Matias is sent off. Pictures: Steve Ellis
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Devoid of confidence, numbers and ideas, Wednesday have the look of a team sleepwalking into an ugly battle for Championship survival.

Peformances have picked up a little since Jos Luhukay replaced Carlos Carvalhal in the managerial hotseat.

Daniel Pudil sees red

Daniel Pudil sees red

But the Owls have recorded a paltry three victories from their last 17 competitive matches.

It has now been over three months since Wednesday last won at Hillsborough in the Championship and the table makes grim reading. The Owls, beaten in the play-off semi-finals last season, are 17th and just seven points above the bottom three.

And Saturday’s desperately disappointing defeat to lowly Birmingham City was a new low in a forgettable campaign.

Wednesday’s defending in the first half was nothing short of embarrassing and the Blues, the lowest scorers in the division, made them pay.

A defensive calamity sees the Owls fall behind

A defensive calamity sees the Owls fall behind

A breakdown in communication between Joe Wildsmith and Frederico Venancio culminated in David Davis’s eighth-minute opener. It was a complete mix-up at the back and things only got worse.

When Jota’s speculative left-foot shot in the 21st minute squirmed underneath Wildsmith, you sensed it was not going to the Owls’ day. The Blues did not have to work hard to break Wednesday down. It was an error-ridden display.

“It was a disappointing day for us,” admitted Luhukay. “When we analyse the two goals, I think it was communication between Joe and Frederico (for the first goal).

“For the second goal, this can happen to a goalkeeper. Joe has played fantastic games in recent weeks, but this is the life of a young goalkeeper.”

Jordan Thorniley in action

Jordan Thorniley in action

The Dutchman made a tactical change, taking off captain Glenn Loovens for Lucas Joao and switching from a 3-5-2 formation to 4-3-3.

But as Luhukay pointed out in his measured post-match press conference, what could go wrong for Wednesday did.

MATIAS RED

The big flashpoint came in the 38th minute when Marco Matias was sent off. The Portuguese forward, recalled to the starting line-up after recovering from a thigh problem, clashed with Blues substitute Cohen Bramall in an off-the-the-ball incident in the far corner of the Leppings Lane End.

Matias and Bramall, who had a trial spell at Wednesday last term, briefly squared up to each other and Arsenal loanee Bramall appeared to headbutt Matias. It looked like six of one half a dozen of the other.

Yet referee Scott Duncan, after speaking with his assistant, deemed Matias was the guilty man and gave him his marching orders. Bramall was not even booked. The Owls had every right to feel aggrieved.

Luhukay said: “I haven’t spoken to the referee about Marco. I saw the referee go to the linesman, so I don’t know what the exact reason was. But I must respect that, and accept it.

“Marco was totally disappointed at half-time. He was not on speaking terms. He was in shock that he had received the red card.

“So I let him rest. Tomorrow (Sunday) I will speak to him about the situation and what exactly happened.”

Jota added salt to the wound deep into added time, tapping in from close range after Wildsmith parried Davis’s fierce shot.

Wednesdayites left S6 in their droves at half-time.

Luhukay said: “It’s not a normal game for us. I have been in football a long time. What we see in the first half, hopefully it’s not what we will see in the future.”

LUCAS JOAO

To the Owls’ credit, they rallied after the break and Joao pulled one back.

He jinked his way into the penalty area and his left-foot shot was too hot for David Stockdale to handle. It was Wednesday’s first league goal in six matches. Relief all round.

Joao continued to carry the fight to Birmingham despite Daniel Pudil’s dismissal for two bookable offences. His pace and direct style of play troubled the Blues and he had a strong penalty appeal waved away late on.

Luhukay said: “We know what we have in Lucas. He had a hard situation today. Not just one defender, but playing against two and sometimes three. He made a good goal, and had the chance for a penalty.”

While Joao’s display offered some hope for the future, these remain worrying times for the Owls. Wednesday are in freefall and Luhukay somehow has to turn their fortunes around. Their next match against rivals Barnsley is hugely important.

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