We watched the seven drubbings down-a-creek Sheffield Wednesday will be clinging to ahead of improbable Peterborough United mission

It’s cliché central. A mountain to climb. An uphill struggle. Mission impossible. Sheffield Wednesday are up a smelly creek and their paddle is floating out of reach.
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A four-goal deficit is what they need to overturn after a miserable outing at London Road littered with individual errors – a bleak reality.

But if you squint hard enough there are matches already gone this season – on both sides of the fixture – that suggest something truly mad could happen. It would be the greatest play-off comeback in the history.

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Peterborough, who simply do not draw games (only five this season) have lost four times by a margin of three goals or more in 2023 alone (yes we know they’d still need another one), shipping five at home to Bolton Wanderers in February.

Owls hat-trick scorer Josh Wndass walks off with the match ball after a hat-trick in the 5-0 win over Cambridge United.Owls hat-trick scorer Josh Wndass walks off with the match ball after a hat-trick in the 5-0 win over Cambridge United.
Owls hat-trick scorer Josh Wndass walks off with the match ball after a hat-trick in the 5-0 win over Cambridge United.

Wednesday have scored five goals at S6 no fewer than three times this season.

We’re squinting, aren’t we? But – to coin another cliché – hope springs eternal. Or does it kill you?

We had a look at the seven matches in question to come up with some pointers for Wednesday on Thursday evening.

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Score early

Unsurprisingly, in all seven matches we looked at, early goals were a catalyst for everything that followed.

The four matches Posh have lost by a three goal margin – 0-3 v Wycombe, 0-5 v Bolton, 0-3 v Cheltenham, 0-3 v Ipswich – goals were scored in the 12th, 15th, 15th and 17th minute respectively and seemed to instil a sense of unsteadiness in Darren Ferguson’s side.

Indeed, Wednesday’s three five-goal blitzes – 5-0 v FGR, 5-0 v Cambridge, 5-2 v MK Dons – saw them score even earlier, in the 12th, seventh and ninth minutes.

The crowd will play a huge part on Thursday and there’s a fair shout to suggest we’ll know whether or not Wednesday will have a chance of doing the unthinkable within 10 or 15 minutes. If they can start with some swagger and get the fans off their seats, Posh could melt.

Start slowly and, well, they probably won’t.

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Score worldies

Watching the highlights of the matches Peterborough went down in, it’s clear quality made all the difference.

The opposition out-performed their xG output in each of the matches in question, with Ipswich’s Freddie Ladapo, Wycombe’s Lewis Wing and Cheltenham’s Alfie May (twice) scoring what could adequately be described as worldies. May’s brace in particular is well worth scoping out if you find a spare few minutes.

It was the same in all three of Wednesday’s five-star efforts. Though ‘worldies’ were on shorter supply, they out-performed their xG in each game.

Take advantage of their nature

Do Posh have what it takes to ‘dig in’ in the traditional sense that has frustrated Wednesday on so many occasions in the final dregs of this season?

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It doesn’t appear to be in their nature, as the highlights of their heavier losses suggest.

Even when goals down, dropping deep to conserve was not evident. It’s a different kettle of spuds in a two-legged affair and if Peterborough were to reverse ferret and line up deep they wouldn’t necessarily have to do it all that well to get what they want, such is their buffer.

But they’re not a squad set up to defend. Get a couple early…