Sheffield Wednesday claimed a hard-fought 1-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday to put themselves in with a go, a puncher’s chance of jumping from the jaws of League One.
A deflected Josh Windass goal in the 37th minute earned them a three points that – you never know – could prove precious.
Take some talking points..
Credit where it’s due..
1-0 up since the early stages, clinging on, the Owls must have gone into the last 15 minutes with a little trepidation. We all know the stats, we all know what happened there just a few days before.
The swirling headlines would have been in the back of their minds, the chatter among supporters. But they held on.
Let’s have it right, Blackburn were poor. They looked like a side bereft of direction. It was the sort of performance typical of the torrid run they’ve been on in 2021.
But Wednesday did it. They defended well and with little fuss. Captain Barry Bannan screamed instructions, vice-captain Tom Lees lead from the front in defence.
And four points shy of the safety places with three to play, with fourth-bottom Derby still to play, from nowhere, they have a chance. This football club.
The man in form
He’s been the outstanding Wednesday man for some weeks now and Josh Windass continued in that vein with another goal at Hillsborough.
The 27-year-old now has nine goals and six assists this season, an incredible record when you consider the struggles the side have had in front of goal this season, and has carried their attack at times.
Three goals and four assists in his last eight, when they’ve had their backs pressed firmly against the brickwork, is an impressive stat in itself.
He looked to be limping a touch in parts of the game and Wednesday will be praying he stays fit. He’ll be very, very important to the final, desperate push.
In terms of next season? He’s a year left on his contract. They might have a battle to keep their hands on him, whatever division they’re in.
The match itself
Oh it was scrappy. Really scrappy. Wednesday had the better of the chances and the better of the game; Tom Lees, Julian Borner, Liam Palmer and Windass all came close, but neither side really had a proper grip of the game.
Blackburn’s long-haired loanee from Liverpool Harvey Elliott showed glimpses of loveliness – he will earn plaudits for delivering a Hillsborough memorial wreath to the Leppings Lane end prior to the match – but even he was relatively quiet. Barry Bannan did a few Barry Bannan things and Adam Reach had moments on the left wing.
Wednesday were forced to rely on long balls over the top for large periods, hoping to use Windass’ pace, asking Rhodes to hold the ball up. And largely it worked.
They were perhaps most threatening at set pieces.
Wednesday made only one change to their starting line-up, bringing Jordan Rhodes in for Callum Paterson.
No real surprises there, but a cursory look at the bench was revealing. Three players; Fisayo Dele-Bashiru, Ciaran Brennan and Matt Penney, all played for the club’s under-23s just a few hours before.
It shows that once again the Wednesday squad is perilously stretched at the end of a long season. There’s nothing unique about that – many clubs have struggled with injuries all season – but given where they are, it’s far from ideal.
Cross your fingers and toes and everything else. This is a squad that doesn’t need anymore injuries.
Nobody panic, but..
At this stage of the season, the teams involved in a relegation battle kick into some sort of playoff form, scratching and clawing for every throw-in and corner.
That’s not been the case this season. The reasons may well be obvious, that Championship squads are cooked after a year of twice or three times a week matchday action.
Many will have had one eye on Deepdale, where Preston North End were hosting Derby County. If Wednesday are to stop up, it will most likely be at the cost of the Rams, who have sunk like a stone in recent weeks.
They’ve won only once in their last 11 and don’t look to be getting any better. Defeat at Preston showed as much. They’ve been there for the taking for weeks.
So with four points to make up and Derby still on the fixture list, it’s all of a sudden on the bloody cards again. There’s three-in-hand Rotherham to contend with, too. They couldn’t. Could they?
If they don’t, it has to be said that some pretty poor football teams will have finished above Wednesday this season.
Relegation is a thing.. and long may it be
It hurts. It’s a prospect that shouldn’t be of threat Sheffield Wednesday. But in this week of all weeks, the bigger picture is that relegation is a major part of the glorious patchwork quilt that is English football. It brings jeopardy to football, and an opportunity ahead for whoever steps into their Championship shoes next season.
And that should be celebrated. It hurts, but Wednesday will be back. The castle started crumbling last night. Do everything you can to resist the very notion of the Super League, everything it represents and what might one day follow.
Sheffield Wednesday: Westwood; Borner, Lees, Hutchinson; Reach, Pelupessy, Bannan, Palmer; Windass, Rhodes (Paterson, 75), Harris (Green, 75)
Subs unused: Wildsmith, Urhoghide, Brennan, Penney, Hunt, Shaw, Dele-Bahsiru
Blackburn Rovers: Kaminski; Douglas, Lenihan, Harwood-Bellis, Bennett; Trybull (Brereton, 66), Evans (Buckley, 66), Rothwell; Gallagher (Travis, 66), Armstrong, Elliott (Downing, 66)
Subs unused: Pears, Bell, Davenport, Johnson, Dolan