Well after a bit of a horror show against Birmingham last week I’m pretty sure everyone was slightly apprehensive about the trip up the road to Barnsley.
Having just lost their manager to Leeds United there was always the possibility of a positive reaction from them and a coming together. On a very windy and blustery day it was pretty awful conditions for a game of football and the team that Jos Luhukay started with was very much a patched up XI. Without repeating myself the injury list is still as long as ever and the couple of suspensions on top didn’t help this.
I though the game was a little bit lacklustre and you could see as the game went on the home team was growing in confidence. The penalty that we were awarded was the first time we had threatened in behind the Barnsley back four and although it was probably deemed a little soft I do think it was the correct decision.
Going 1-0 up and with the wind behind us I was hoping that we would kick on and really put the home side under some pressure. Unfortunately only a couple of minutes later the scores were equal and the dynamics of the game had changed. As the game went on I felt we had fallen into our usual trap of playing in front of the opposition without ever really wanting to stretch the game. It looked like we got away with a similar penalty shout and although the point was a welcome one I really wasn’t convinced about our overall performance.
There were too many occasions where I felt we were second best. The positive for me was that a couple of the younger players were included again and they put in decent performances. Jos Luhukay has come into a really difficult situation, I would imagine it has been far more difficult than he could have imagined and it really has been a baptism of fire for him since his arrival. Overall I think he has done great, trying to get to know about players is ridiculously difficult, it takes time and that has been something that he hasn’t really had on his side. He will learn so much more from match situations than in training and overall his appointment has had a positive effect in my opinion.
Onto Tuesday night's home game to high flying Derby County and there was a return to the starting line ups for a couple of the experienced players, notably Glenn Loovens and Daniel Pudil. There was also a first start for Sean Clare. The performance that was to follow was an absolute breath of fresh air from everyone involved.
We started with some pace and tempo and looked like we were playing on the front foot and taking the game to Derby. When Lucas Joao put us ahead after some excellent play by Adam Reach and then Jack Hunt it was nothing more than we deserved. Throughout the team there were some excellent performances and it really was in stark contrast to what we have been witnessing.
Joao looks to have gained in confidence and this will partly be due to his run of games, his talent is never in question but he also looks to have brought some determination and resilience to his game. He then scored a fabulous second with some individual play and a great strike and it looked to be going oh so well.
There was always going to be a reaction from Derby and they changed a couple of personnel and really had a go at us midway through the second half. We stood firm, defended resolutely and when called upon Wildsmith was yet again excellent in goal. Sean Clare was full of running and should quite rightly be extremely pleased with his performance on his full debut. His turn of pace was great to see and he looked like he had been playing at this level for a good while. He used the ball well, filled in when he had to and always looked a threat when in possession. Adam Reach put in another outstanding performance and I left the ground with a smile on my face, a real sense of positivity and thinking that there really is something there to build on.
The difficult part now is to do exactly that, build on it and what better game to do it in than this coming Saturday. The return of Carlos Carvalhal and his Premier League Swansea City in the FA Cup is a bit of a tricky one in my opinion. Of course, like most people I will be desperate for us to win the game and progress into the next round, but does Jos Luhukay have one eye on next Tuesday's trip down to Millwall when it comes to picking his team? Which is the most important, points in the Championship or an FA Cup run? Not an easy one to answer but the three points from the Derby game have helped immensely.
I will also be extremely interested to see the reception that the returning Carlos Carvalhal will receive from the Sheffield Wednesday supporters. He was lorded whilst he was here in charge and in my opinion was probably given more time than most managers get at this level. I am pretty sure once he had departed he never considered that he would be returning as quickly as this. I just wonder if he has a few regrets regarding some of the stuff that he came out with when he became Swansea’s manager? We will see! All I am really bothered about is that we build on Tuesday’s very good performance and start moving forward.