Sheffield Wednesday's blushes spared by super sub Michael Smith - but two limp off for Owls
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Wednesday rode their luck early doors as nearly 4,000 Mansfield Town fans roared their team on from the first whistle… Cameron Dawson was called into action inside three minutes, and with a bit more cutting edge from the visitors the Owls could’ve found themselves behind.
And things didn’t get much better as a much-changed Owls XI struggled to get into gear against a Stags side that were clearly up for the cup and eager to force an upset.
So much of Wednesday’s play felt laboured and disjointed. They were being dispossessed too easily, too regularly, and it felt like so many passes were either overhit or underhit whenever they did have the opportunity to make something happen.
So when Mansfield took the lead just after the half hour mark, it didn’t come as much of a surprise.
Kellan whipped a dangerous ball into the box that wasn’t dealt with at all, and George Lapslie’s deft touch took it past Dawson and into the back of the net in front of an empty Kop.
The Owls went in at half time deservedly behind, and anybody watching on knew that something had to change if they were going to get back into the tie.
Moore didn’t make any substitutions at the break, but what he said in the changing room did seem to have an effect, with the hosts looking much more threatening as the second half got underway.
Will Vaulks had a long-range strike well saved by Christy Pym, and Callum Paterson tried to make things happen, but after 10 minutes the momentum shifted back to Nigel Clough’s team as Lucas Akins continued to cause problems for the Wednesday backline.
After 63 minutes the Owls boss decided that it was time to change things up – he brought Smith and Dominic Iorfa into the fray, replacing Mallik Wilks and Jack Hunt in order to shift to a back three. Marvin Johnson and Alex Mighten went from left back and left wing to left wingback and right wingback.
Shortly afterwards he was forced to change things once again as Lee Gregory limped off the field and straight down the tunnel. Moore won’t have wanted to use Bannan this afternoon, but was forced to do so heading into the final 20.
It didn’t take too long for his changes to pay off, either, with a nicely worked move down the left side ending with Johnson sliding a low cross into the feet of Smith, and he did brilliantly to direct his shot past Pym into the bottom corner.
He wasn’t finished yet though.
Johnson’s shift further up the pitch really changed things for the Wednesday, and he did brilliantly once again moments later as he put it on a plate for Smith to bag his brace.
On the basis of the whole game, the Owls were probably lucky to be ahead, but in the end it was the strength of their squad that got the job done. A squad they may need to change up again next week after Gregory limped off and Michael Ihiekwe did the same late on.
They’re into the hat for the third round, and will be eagerly awaiting Monday’s draw.