Throw fire, don’t burn the house down - Alex Miller’s Sheffield Wednesday XI for do-or-die Derby County date
How does a team go about winning a football match?
It’s a question several figures at Sheffield Wednesday have no doubt found themselves asking more often than not throughout a – let’s be polite – difficult 2020/21 season.
Given a draw is neither here nor there for the Owls at Derby County this weekend – anything less than a win will see them relegated – there is a natural inclination to fire up the rockets and go gung-ho, throw men forward and get 2-0 up before the Rams know it.
But that’s a dangerous game, and one that is easy to play from our armchairs. Concede first and Wednesday turn an uphill task into a mountainous one, especially given their well-publicised struggles in front of goal this season.
What will have them fare better than that powderpuff Nottingham Forest performance is attitude, desire and a daring that they haven’t shown enough in recent times; not a system that throws the baby out with the desperation to score an early goal.
So, with tin hat on, here’s my line-up for the trip to Derby County tomorrow. I’ve got them lining up in a 3-5-2 / 5-3-2 depending on who has possession.
GK: Keiren Westwood – An experienced campaigner, this may well be Westwood’s last-ever appearance in a Wednesday shirt. He has expressed his desperation to help them avoid the drop and above all offers a confidence and presence that will be important in a game such as this.
DCL: Julian Borner – When he’s good, he’s very good. When he’s bad, he’s horrid. And, well, he’ll be the first to admit he’s not been on top of his game of late. But he provides balance on the left of the back three. He’ll be tested against Colin Kazim-Richards and co. Time to step up.
DC: Sam Hutchinson – An important figure since his return to the club in January. Seems to have made a home for himself at centre-half and is another experienced voice at the back.
DCR: Osaze Urhoghide – A twinkling light in a bleak season, Urhoghide’s pace and recovery ability may well be important on an edgy afternoon. His absence in recent weeks has confused some. Like others, this could be his last Owls outing.
WBL: Adam Reach – Hard-working, Reach’s legs may be required against the likes of Byrne and Jóźwiak – hould they go that way on the Derby right. Seems low on confidence but has a moment of magic in him.
DCM: Joey Pelupessy – The central source of debate, no doubt. Where some may see him as a negative selection, the fact is that Wednesday win more game with him in the side and he’s been a fairly consistent performer this season.
CM: Barry Bannan – Player of the year. Captain. Leader. Legend. Next?
CM: Callum Paterson – There haven’t been many of them, so get your goals on the pitch; that’s central to my thinking. If the match ends up in a slugfest you want the big Scot in your corner.
WBR: Liam Palmer – Many were surprised by his omission last week, when Paterson was preferred on the right. For my money Palmer has been excellent as a wing-back for several weeks.
CF: Josh Windass – The first name on the teamsheet alongside Bannan. Without his contribution in recent weeks, Wednesday would have been down a long time ago.
CF: Jordan Rhodes – Goals on the pitch. He can go hours without seeming to touch the ball but has a knack of finding a goal from somewhere.
SUBS – Here’s part of the thinking. Last week against Forest there was nothing to come off the bench to inject a little something. In Harris and Green they have impact substitutes who – on their day – can make things happen. If the game is as tight as many expect it to be, the ability to bring an attacking threat or two off the bench could be key.
It doesn’t matter if they win 1-0 or 5-0. But they must win.