Carlos Carvalhal is acutely aware that he will be judged on how Sheffield Wednesday perform in the rough and tumble of the Championship in his first season in English football.
Finishing in the upper reaches of the division is the Owls chief’s main priority.
Nonetheless, Carvalhal will take a lot of positives from the free-flowing football they produced against League Two Mansfield Town as they booked their place in the second round of the Capital One Cup.
In the first competitive meeting between the clubs since January 1991, Lucas Joao and Modou Sougou starred as Carvalhal’s charges ultimately ran-out easy winners.
Some of their defending was unconvincing, particularly in the second half but, the main thing, is they professionally got the job done. They dominated for long periods in sealing back-to-back Hillsborough wins for the first time since March 2014.
All that after came after Carvalhal rotated his multi-cultural squad, making nine changes to his starting line-up. Only Tom Lees and Alex Lopez were retained from the eleven who comfortably brushed aside Bristol City last weekend, with the Portuguese choosing to rest first-team regulars Keiren Westwood and Glenn Loovens.
Carvalhal handed debuts to summer signings Rhoys Wiggins, Vincent Sasso and Sougou and gave highly-rated academy graduate Joe Wildsmith a chance to stake his claim.
Liam Palmer, Jose Semedo, Kieran Lee, Caolan Lavery and Joao were also given opportunities to impress.
It took Joao just 22 seconds to make his presence felt. He shrugged off the attentions of Corbin Shires before sprinting to the byline and delivering a teasing cross which narrowly evaded Sougou.
Mansfield packed midfield, lining up in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Their game-plan was clear: to defend in numbers, stay compact and keep things tight in the early stages. It didn’t work.
The prospect of a cup upset looked remote when the hosts opened the scoring in the 13th minute through Angolan-born Joao, who headed in Lopez’s well flighted free-kick after Malvind Benning was penalised for upending Sougou. It is the second match in a row Wednesday have profited from a set play.
Then there was a real collectors item. A Jose Semedo goal.
His only previous Owls strike had come against Wycombe Wanderers nearly four years ago.
Wednesday’s midfield enforcer rose highest to power in Sougou’s pinpoint centre to double their advantage.
Oozing confidence and class, Carvalhal’s men poured forward looking to add to their tally.
Sougou, proving a dangerous attacking outlet on the right flank, raced on to Lee’s through ball before seeing his teasing cross cut out by Ryan Tafazolli, with Joao lurking.
The Marseille wing merchant tested the reflexes of former Rotherham United shot-stopper Scott Shearer as Wednesday continued to control proceedings.
After more patient build-up play, Sougou fed Lavery, whose weak effort was comfortably gathered by Shearer.
Carvalhal handed Wildsmith, a graduate of the club’s youth system, his first senior Owls start and the England Under-20 international, who spent a month on loan at Barnsley last season, repaid his faith in a one-sided half, producing a fine save to tip over Chris Beardsley’s header.
From the resulting corner, Mansfield grabbed a lifeline through Tafazolli after the defender nipped in front of stand-in captain Lees to nod home inside the six-yard box.
Tafazolli’s goal visibly lifted the Stags and they almost completed a remarkable comeback four minutes after the re-start but Beardsley’s header was deflected over by Lees, who was making his 50th appearance in Owls colours.
Having survived that let off, Wednesday then restored their two-goal cushion, with Lee exploiting a big gap in Mansfield’s defence before drilling a right foot shot past Shearer.
Marco Matias added extra speed and directness to the hosts after coming on for the ineffective Lavery. He wasted a glorious chance to put the tie out of the Stags’ reach, side-footing narrowly wide with the goal at his mercy following a neat pass by Lopez.
It took a wonderful last-ditch challenge by Shires to prevent Joao from bursting clean through on goal after the forward, recruited from Nacional last month, waltzed past several defenders. In full flight, Joao is a joy to watch.
But Wednesday did not have it all their own way in an entertaining, absorbing contest and Wildsmith had to be alert to keep out substitute Adi Yussuf’s low effort.
Had the Stags been more clinical in front of goal, they could have set up a nervy, grand-stand finish but Beardsley, unmarked at the back post, headed over from an acute angle before Lambe dragged a shot wide.
With six minutes left, Sougou deservedly marked his debut with a goal, smashing in Jeremy Helan’s cut back.
Wednesday: Wildsmith; Palmer, Sasso, Lees, Wiggins; Lee, Lopez (Hutchinson 57), Semedo, Sougou, Lavery (Matias 51), Joao (Helan 75). Substitutes: Dawson, Nuhiu, McGugan, Wallace.
Mansfield: Shearer; Hunt, Shires, Tafazolli, Benning; Westcarr (Yussuf 59), Clements, Chapman, N Thomas (Caton 57), J Thomas (Lambe 59); Beardsley. Substitutes: McGuire, Jensen, Marsden, Rose.
Referee: Mark Brown (East Yorkshire)