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Sheffield Wednesday Reflections
Two goals from Gary Hooper condemned Blues to their first league defeat of 2016 at a wet St Andrew’s. Blues had taken the lead when Clayton Donaldson made the most of a ricochet from Tom Lees’ clearance in first half injury time but they were undone by two goals in two minutes in the second half.
I said when Blues beat Ipswich we’d play better than we did in that game and lose; I didn’t imagine it would happen in the next home game. In what was an extended first half following a sickener of a collision between Wednesday keeper Keiren Westwood and defender Sam Hutchinson, Blues had looked in control for large portions of the game and were in some ways unfortunate to only be one up at half-time. Blues had been continually pressing and it finally told as Michael Morrison stopped Tom Lees from belting the ball into the stand, allowing Clayton Donaldson to slip home his first goal since Fulham away on November 7.
The game turned on two substitutions in the second half. Firstly Wednesday replaced the ineffective Aiden McGeady with Atdhe Nuhiu giving the Owls a focal point up front for Hooper and Fernando Forestieri to feed off; secondly Blues took off the tiring Jon Toral for Diego Fabbrini. Blues had slowly been losing a grip on the game and I think Rowett made an error in swapping like for like when it seemed that the team needed more bite in the middle – particularly as Will Buckley had also looked like he was blowing out of his arse.
Wednesday’s equaliser was down to a bit of class. Two successive 1-2s in the middle of the park left Paul Robinson among others chasing shadows with Gary Hooper able to move into space and lash home from 18 yards.
Almost immediately after, Diego Fabbrini fell over under a strong but fair challenge just inside the Wednesday half, allowing the Owls to break down the right with Forestieri before the Italian played a beautiful ball across the Blues box for Hooper to slot home from close range. There was a slight element of controversy due to Maikel Kieftenbeld being blocked off in an off the ball challenge, but I can’t honestly think it made any difference.
Fabbrini may have felt he had a penalty later on but in all truth he went down much too easily – no doubt to the joy of the bloke behind me in Block 19 who thought he was auditioning for a role as a U-Boat captain in a remake of Das Boot, as much as he was shouting “Dive, Dive, Dive”. I don’t like seeing players dive – even to our benefit – and I think it went against Fabbrini when he was legitimately fouled in injury time with the ref waving play on.
I honestly think bringing on Fabbrini was a mistake. As talented and as creative as he is, when the pitch is marshy because it’s been raining continually for hours and we’re tiring I think Blues would have been better served bringing on Davis and shoring up a bit in midfield with fresh legs to make tackles and stop Wednesday from taking control. By the time Vaughan came on I thought the game had gone and the chance to take Buckley off in midfield was gone – but maybe that’s just hindsight.
Against Ipswich we rode our luck somewhat – but today proved that we can’t continue to defend as we have and expect teams not to score. Wednesday’s strikeforce is somewhat more expensive than ours and it showed as they were clinical with their finishing. As intricate for the build-up for the first was, none of Morrison, Robinson or Grounds could get close to their players allowing Hooper the chance to show why Wednesday paid a reported £3million for his services. Grounds was caught upfield for the second and as much as Robbo tried to get across to stop the cross he was never going to get there.
Is it a reality check that Blues aren’t good enough for promotion? The naysayers will say so and I can see their point but I don’t think it’s much more than fine lines that is keeping us out of the playoffs. Rotherham away is going to be an interesting test – a bottom three side scrapping for their lives to stay out of the relegation trapdoor. If we can bounce back with a result there, then I’ll believe.