Everything is far from hunky-dory on or off the field at Sheffield Wednesday.
It is mid-October and the 150th anniversary replica kit is still not on sale, their expensively-assembled team is grossly under-performing and supporters are beginning to lose faith with Carlos Carvalhal.
When the Owls thumped Leeds United before the international break, some observers felt that might be the turning point in their season. With key players to return from injury, surely the result would be a springboard to bigger and better things?
They were wrong.
Their fine victory against Leeds only papered over some big cracks. This side is going backwards, not forwards, and Carvalhal is failing to get the Owls playing to their full potential on a consistent basis.
Their performance for long spells versus rock-bottom Bolton Wanderers was inexplicably bad and unacceptable. In the space of a fortnight, Wednesday went from one extreme to another.
The players are letting down Carvalhal and the fans, who pay their hard-earned cash to follow the team up and down the country in big numbers. Wednesday remain consistently inconsistent and the supporters deserve so much better.
Almost 4,800 fans travelled to the Macron Stadium and some called for Carvalhal to lose his job, chanting: ‘We Want Carlos Out.’ Others in the away end booed to drown out the dissenters.
Carvalhal is unquestionably under pressure to stop the rot and something has to change quickly. As things stand, Wednesday don’t look capable of challenging for promotion. Their form and performances are far too erratic.
It’s worth pointing out Bolton entered Saturday’s contest on the back of eight straight defeats in all competitions, had lost all five of their home matches and gone over 12 and a half hours without a goal. The Trotters have been the Championship’s whipping boys.
Despite his club picking up a meagre two points from their opening 11 league tussles and making their second-worst start to a season in their history, Bolton chairman Ken Anderson recently assured manager Phil Parkinson his job was safe.
The Trotters played like their lives depended on it from the off. The Owls didn’t. The Trotters won second balls and earned the right to play. The Owls, for the umpteenth time, started slowly and played without purpose or tempo.
The truth is, Carvalhal can blame refereeing decisions as much as he likes for a third defeat in four matches - and Wednesday had at least one big call go against them over the weekend - but it was not the officials’ fault they conceded two soft, dreadful goals. Defensively the Owls were all over the place at times.
Sammy Ameobi ran poor Adam Reach ragged in the opening 45 minutes. He was Bolton’s dangerman and the skilful winger cut inside on to his favoured left foot in the 10th minute before curling a delightful shot past Joe Wildsmith, who was again deputising for the injured Keiren Westwood in goal. It was no more than the hosts deserved.
Steven Fletcher had a shot saved by Ben Alnwick and Reach’s left-foot drive was brilliantly headed off the line by Wednesday old boy Mark Beevers, but the Trotters were good value for their half-time lead.
The visitors livened up after Carvalhal introduced Sam Hutchinson and Jordan Rhodes at the break. Rhodes missed two gilt-edged opportunities to equalise before Hutchinson put through his own net just after the hour mark following a Filipe Morais corner.
Gary Madine then missed a sitter after good play out wide by the outstanding Josh Vela. What on earth has happened the Owls’ compact, well-organised defensive unit of the previous three seasons?
Kieran Lee bundled in his second goal in as many outings in the 68th minute to give Wednesday hope after Rhodes had a goalbound effort blocked by a Filipe Morais handball. Carvalhal, who was sent to the stands when the Owls lost at Bolton in the Carabao Cup in August, questioned why Morais received a yellow rather than a red card.
“I am not sure about the rule because I think it has changed, but it used to be red card and penalty,” he said.
It was a thrilling end-to-end finish. Alnwick brilliantly denied Lucas Joao with his feet before Madine was foiled by Wildsmith and Hutchinson hacked a David Wheater header off the line.
The big talking point came with two minutes to go when Lee was penalised for simulation in the penalty area after doing down under a challenge by Wheater. Lee appeared to be tripped by the defender, who was a tower of strength for Bolton, but referee David Coote harshly booked Lee for diving. The decision left Carvalhal and his coaching staff seething. It is the third match in a row where Wednesday have been on the receiving end of poor decisions by the officials.
NOT GOOD ENOUGH
It is fair to say the rub of the green has not gone Wednesday’s way of late, but the reality is Carvalhal can’t use that as an excuse for their below-par, inadequate displays. His team look a soft touch and have picked up maximum points just once away from Hillsborough in six attempts.
With the quality at the Owls’ disposal, they shouldn’t be relying on luck. They should be performing at a higher level. They should be dismantling teams such as Bolton.
Wednesday have played the bottom four teams in the division and picked up a paltry two points. That can’t continue if the Owls want to go up.
The pressure is building on Carvalhal and it is becoming increasingly difficult to see how he will turn around their fortunes.