Some fisticuffs, bloody Börner and a crazy clean sheet stat: FIVE talking points from another clean sheet for Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough
It was an almost perfect week for Sheffield Wednesday, who now find themselves climbing up the Championship table for the first time since the start of the campaign.
Garry Monk said ahead of this week’s game against Millwall that it would be ‘attritional’, and the fact it ended as a 0-0 draw probably didn’t come as much of a surprise to anybody who’d checked out some of the stats pre-game.
We all know how the Owls have struggled to score (they’ve got just six in 11 games), but what not everybody will know that Millwall’s clean sheet at Hillsborough was their 17th of 2020, and that they’ve got one of the best defensive records in English football right now.
Here’s a few talking points from a cold night at Hillsborough:
10 points in a week…
Not many teams can say they’ve picked up 10 points in the space of just a few days, but that’s exactly the situation that the Owls find themselves in right now.
To have picked up a win over Bournemouth, received six points after appealing their 12-point deduction, and then kept another clean sheet at Hillsborough on Saturday afternoon, it’s safe to say that Wednesday have had a good week since stepping into November.
Monk revealed recently that the team had set a minimum target of getting out of the negative points before this month’s international break, and the draw against the Lions means that – even if they’d not got six points back – they would now have found themselves on zero points.
As it stands, however, they’re in much better shape than that.
Off the bottom!
It could have been a picture perfect day for the Owls had they managed to get a winner over Millwall, with other results meaning that they’d have left the relegation zone if they’d picked up three points.
They had to settle for just the one point against an immensely organised visiting side, though, with Bartosz Białkowski putting in another good performance as he thwarted the likes of Josh Windass, Adam Reach, Joey Pelupessy and Jack Marriott on multiple occasions.
Wednesday had 15 shots to Millwall’s 11, and Monk will be pleased with the fact that his side had eight shots on target while Gary Rowett’s team never once forced Joe Wildsmith into a single save.
Though they weren’t able to put a cherry on the cake of what could have been a perfect few days by climbing out of the bottom three, they do now have Derby County to look down on below them – even if it’s just on goal difference – for the first time this season.
Monk has spoken a lot about attitude and character this season as he seeks to bring some fight back into the ranks at S6, and Julian Börner certainly showed plenty of that as he literally bled for the cause in the latest game of his SWFC resurgence.
The German became a popular figure at Wednesday last season following his free transfer move from Arminia Bielefeld, but his form saw him fall down the pecking order going into the 2020/21 campaign as Monk looked to other defenders to try and climb up the table.
In fact, it was only after a number of key injuries that Börner was reinstated to the XI, and he’s taken his chance with both hands. He was much improved against Wycombe Wanderers despite the result, and his performances against Bournemouth and Millwall were much more reminiscent of what led to him becoming a fan favourite in the first place.
After the game, Monk praised his attitude and application since falling out of favour, adding that he felt he’s now playing the best he’s played since his arrival at the club. Long may it continue.
A bit of fisticuffs
It wasn’t a particularly ill-tempered game, with only 15 fouls and just a couple of yellow cards, but it did get a bit spicy after the final whistle in what was a bit of a bust-up involving Rowett, Josh Windass and Callum Paterson.
The Millwall boss said that Windass was a bit ‘chippy’ towards him, something that he felt disrespectful, after what appeared to be an angry response to a late challenge from Izzy Brown that Rowett felt should’ve been a red card rather than a yellow.
We asked Dominic Iorfa and Monk about it afterwards and they didn’t seem to know much about what actually transpired, but Wednesdayites will no doubt be pleased to see a bit of battle in their new signings.
Iorfa and another clean sheet
You have to go all the way back to October 2019 to find the last time that Wednesday secured back-to-back clean sheets at Hillsborough – which is a pretty remarkable stat in itself.
The Owls have struggled at home, but they’ve now put two good home showings together consecutively and will certainly consider themselves unlucky not to have gotten more from the Millwall game.
It was Wednesday’s fifth clean sheet of the season in the Championship (only three teams in the league have got more), and it was another one achieved while Iorfa was on the field.
Is it a coincidence that Wednesday have got one clean sheet in five when he’s been missing and four in six when he’s been available? I think not.
The defence looks more at ease with him there, with his intelligence, pace and athleticism. Having him back has been a huge boost.