Sheffield Wednesday, who arrived at Millwall in search of their third win on the bounce after what felt like a season-changing last-minute winner at playoff-chasing Bournemouth in the week, fell to a disappointing 4-1 defeat.
It all started so well, with in-the-goals forward Callum Paterson scrambling one past Lions keeper Bartosz Białkowski after just 10 minutes. But they ran out of puff in brutal fashion, passive and leggy in a second half the Lions dominated.
Let’s take a wander through some talking points on a rain-soaked and miserable afternoon for the Owls.
He’s no ranter and raver. A calm and centred Neil Thompson spoke to the media after the match keen to stay level-headed after a stinker of a day at the office.
These results happen across the course of a season, he said, especially in the Championship. And he is of course absolutely right.
For the highs of Bournemouth and Preston come snake-belly lows at Coventry and Millwall, such are the demands of this utterly bizarre division. It’s an emotion business, which is why we love it so, but those at the centre of the madness need to keep a level head no matter the reaction of those on the fringes.
Thompson will do that, he said, knowing that Wednesday can seldom afford too many more lows as we enter the final months of the season.
From riches to rags..
The first half hour was all Sheffield Wednesday. Millwall were slow and turgid and unable to compete. And with the run of form they’re on, with their confidence as high as it has been for well over a year, it felt as though they’d leave the capital with three points after Callum Paterson’s battling opener on 10 minutes.
The turning point was Millwall’s equaliser from the penalty spot without a doubt, and from that moment on the home side seemed to win every second ball, make every pass and run a tired-looking Owls side into the soggy South London dirt.
Could Thompson have made a raft of changes to a starting line-up that has played an awful lot of football in the last couple of weeks? Hindsight is 20/20 and you could certainly see why he instead chose to make only one change to a winning side that claimed such a momentum-building win at Bournemouth.
As it happened, Wednesday fell away and fell away and fell asleep. It was Millwall’s first home win since October.
One bright spark in the Owls’ afternoon was another goal for target man Callum Paterson, his seventh of the season and his fourth in six matches.
Though he faded as the match went on – nothing individual about that – he was a real handful in the opening half hour as Millwall struggled with his hard work and physicality, providing solid focal point when Wednesday were at it.
All too fleeting, though, and he was understandably spent by the time he was replaced by Windass after 73 minutes.
You can’t but get the feeling Paterson will be a hugely important figure in this Wednesday set up as they continue their relegation battle.
Let’s be honest, Joey Pelupessy gets more stick than a Blackpool gift shop.
The Dutchman has been in solid form in recent weeks, providing a buffer between the midfield and defence in what is his longest spell in the team for some time. He’s been solid and sensible in possession and has grown in confidence with every passing outing.
But a clumsy piece of defending to hand Millwall their penalty was the turning point and he’ll be disappointed with the position he found himself in as former Blade Ryan Leonard turned past him.
Speaking to The Star after the match Thompson said Pelupessy had slipped. Whatever happened, there’s no question that it was the clash’s tide-turning moment.
Chey Dunkley made a return to the side and performed well, winning a great many duels and putting his unique stamp on proceedings.
It had been a big call to take Osaze Urhoghide out after his stellar return to the side but a back three of Tom Lees, Chey Dunkley and Sam Hutchinson? With Keiren Westwood behind them? It’s a quartet you’d fancy with their backs against the wall.
Look, the scoreline makes it pretty clear that it didn’t happen how Wednesday would have liked, but with the centre-half back, with Liam Shaw back along with others, Wednesday’s squad all of a sudden looks more robust, however hard they might have to stretch off to go again.
The blow came afterwards as Thompson confirmed a fresh injury concern for Massimo Luongo of course. We wait to find out its full extent.
Asked whether the Owls’ clash with Wycombe on Tuesday was a must-win, Thompson paused and made the very fair point that the next game is always the most important.
But deep down he will have absolutely no doubt as to the importance of three precious points against the Championship’s bottom side, who are 12 points adrift of safety and in survival terms seem buried.
The Owls’ home form is excellent and better opportunities will be rare. Defeat at Millwall is another round down and we saw how impressively they bounced back from disappointment at Coventry. Sheffield Wednesday need to dust themselves down and take three points from their next football match.
Millwall: Bialkowski, Leonard (Williams, 60), Hutchinson, Cooper, Romeo, Kieftenbeld (Thompson, 45), Evans, Woods, Malone, Zohore (Bradshaw, 79), Bödvarsson (Smith, 86)
Subs unused: Fielding, Wallace, Pearce, Bennett, McNamara
Sheffield Wednesday: Westwood, Palmer (Shaw, 59), Lees, Dunkley, Hutchinson (Urhoghide, 73), Penney (Harrs, 45), Pelupessy, Reach, Bannan, Kachunga (Rhodes, 59), Paterson (Windass, 73)
Subs unused: Wildsmith, Börner, Green, Brown