Staying positive and a gulf in class - FIVE talking points from Sheffield Wednesday's defeat to Norwich City
It was an all-too-familiar story for Sheffield Wednesday – in fact, almost a carbon copy of what happened the last time they met Norwich City.
Wednesday were really good in the first half, taking the lead through Jordan Rhodes after a bright start, and they were good value for their lead come the break.
Darren Moore’s side were playing confidently, with impressive structural discipline and more than held their own against arguably one of the best teams the Championship has ever seen.
But – just as happened at Carrow Road – the pressure told in the end as Teemu Pukki and Todd Cantwell completed the visitors’ reversal to secure a 2-1 victory that made it seven defeats on the bounce for the Owls and three in a row for Moore.
It wasn’t quite as last ditch as what happened in Norwich, but it was no less disappointing that the Owls put in a showing good enough to possibly beat the best team in the division, but came away with nothing.
Here are some talking points from another tough afternoon at Hillsborough:
Moore’s first two games saw him utilise the 4-2-3-1 formation that he used so regularly at Doncaster Rovers, and it very much looked as though that was going to be the way that things would go on.
But he did tell The Star recently that it’ll be ‘horses for courses’ with regards to the opponents they came up against, hinting that he wasn’t afraid to change things up if another setup was more suited to the opposition.
That very much seemed to be the case today.
Instead of the 4-2-3-1, the new Owls boss switched to a 3-5-2 that has become very commonplace at Hillsborough of late, opting to put Tom Lees, Sam Hutchinson and Osaze Urhoghide in there with Kadeem Harris and Liam Palmer as the wingbacks.
To be fair, it worked a charm in the first half and Wednesday really were very good, but ultimately there was a gulf in quality between the two sides – summarised by the two goals the visitors scored.
It’s nice to see the manager open to changing things though, and to be honest, had they played this way against most teams in the league then it would’ve been enough to secure all three points.
A gulf in class
If Emiliano Buendia isn’t at his best, then Teemu Pukki is on hand, and there’s Todd Cantwell, too.
Norwich took it to Wednesday in the second half and were good value for their win in the end, but it was the nature of their goals that showed the gulf in quality.
Wednesday and Norwich had the same amount of attempts (12) and the Owls actually had more shots on target (4/3), but the sheer quality of finishing from Pukki and Cantwell was just on a completely different level to practically anything we’ve seen from Wednesday this season.
The first half was probably his best in a Wednesday shirt in recent memory… Aside from his goal – which he took really well, with great composure – he was just generally really good.
He won some important fouls, held up play well and was a very willing runner in what was an excellent first 45 minutes for the entire team, really.
It’s also worth noting some of his work in the Owls box, too. There was some good clearances from him when Norwich were trying to equalise, and he certainly wasn’t afraid to put in work at both ends of the pitch.
He fizzled out in the second half as Moore’s side came under increased pressure though, with Jack Marriott being brought on to replace him.
Today was the 18th time this season that Wednesday have taken the lead in a game in the Championship, and it was the ninth time that they’ve ended up not getting three points at the end of a game when they’ve been winning.
Stats like that are ultimately going to be what ends up relegating them if it doesn’t change…
There are 11 different clubs in the league that have led in less games than the Owls over the course of the season, but only two teams have won less than them (9). Both of those teams – Wycombe Wanderers (6) and Birmingham City (8) – are right down there in the dogfight too, obviously.
But despite it all…
I’m not sure he’d say so, even if he had, but Darren Moore has certainly not thrown in the towel. He’s very much of the opinion that – in the words of Nelson Mandela – it always seems impossible until it’s done. Wednesday still have 33 points to play for, and he says that he has to remain ‘ultra-confident’ that they can pull off what would now certainly class as a great escape.
Moore was very quick to point out that he sees improvement in the players. That he sees the grit and determination to stay up. He also says that he has seen nothing to suggest that they can’t build on a performance that - in all fairness – would probably have been enough to get a win against most of the other teams in the league.
If Wednesday can keep to the levels they showed today and cut out more lapses of concentration after more time working with their new manager, then they might have a chance. But sadly, it all just feels like a ‘too little, too late’ situation now.