Why Sheffield Wednesday started with just one central defender in win over Crewe Alexandra

A look at Sheffield Wednesday’s team sheet when released an hour before kick off on Tuesday night will have brought about some puzzled looks among supporters, just as it did with the local media.

Wednesday, 20th April 2022, 1:54 pm

With Harlee Dean picking up an injury in the victory over MK Dons on Saturday and Chey Dunkley coming off the bench to plug the gap in the centre of the defence, it was expected that the former Wigan man would keep his place in the Wednesday backline.

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However, Darren Moore’s selection saw just one recognised central defender chosen to take on the already-relegated Railwaymen at Hillsborough and it wasn’t Dunkley.

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Jordan Storey, left, was the only natural central defender in the SHeffield Wednesday starting XI that took on Crewe on Tuesday. Pic Steve Ellis

Jordan Storey was in there and when the teams eventually lined up it became a little clearer as to where everyone was selected to play.

Liam Palmer and Marvin Johnson were in the side and both had played in the three-man defence before during this season but a lot of the time that was through necessity such were Wednesday’s injury problems earlier in the campaign.

But Moore went back to them again, even with other options available to him and, to his credit, the tactics worked as the boss explained following a 1-0 win that was a lot more one-sided than the scoreline suggests.

"I know the shot count - I think we had 17 and they had one – but we still had to be careful and cautious, they were always looking to break out, trying to catch us and throwing numbers forward,” said Moore. “That's why I played Marvin and Palms because I knew we would have a lot of the ball and grab control of the game which I thought we did in large spells. But also having that speed alongside for any counters we could nullify that and it did really.”

Moore went on to suggest that it will be a case of horses for courses from now until the end of the season, with Dunkley likely to get a run out at some stage. The match against Wycombe on Saturday might be too early for Dean but as Moore said, “I’m not ruling him out and he is not rulling himself out.”

"The way [Crewe] played, [the formation] forced them to change the shape after 15 minutes because I knew that we would get a lot of joy with Marvin on the left and Palms on the right and we would be able to step out and dominate the ball,” the Owls boss added. “At the same time it would stop their counter attacks, having them two alongside Jordan [Storey] which was the case.

"We had 17 shots to their one, we stopped them and nullified them so when they did break out, we had the speed and agility to mop up anything and recycle the play and go again. So both sides of it, off the ball to stop the counters and certainly in possession to dominate the ball more, having natural balance with Marvin's left foot and Palms right foot and both will naturally step in and create the overloads.”