After a remarkable game which saw Sheffield Wednesday come from behind to win 3-2 against Bristol City, thanks to Kieran Lee’s injury time winner, here are nine things we learned:
1) This Owls team never knows when it’s beaten
For the third match running, Wednesday underlined their spirit and character. Carlos Carvalhal’s men looked dead and buried following Chelsea loanee Tammy Abraham’s first half double.
But to the Owls’ immense credit, there was a renewed vigour about them after the interval and once Steven Fletcher pulled one back, you could sense something might happen. What we didn’t expect was what happened in the interim - a penalty and a red card for either side - and the Robins wilted and the hosts went for the throat and took advantage.
“The most disappointing thing for me was a couple crumbled out of my lot,” admitted City head coach Lee Johnson. “I see it in the mindset and it does happen. “What you can’t do is freeze. You have to be brave and bold in everything you do.”
Wednesday showed their mental toughness to come from two goals behind in the league for the first time in 13 years, which bodes well for the challenges looming on the horizon.
2) Kieran Lee is not boring
During the weekly live Owls discussion show on our Facebook page I (Chris Holt) may have recently described Kieran Lee as ‘boring’. I didn’t really mean it as it sounded (I was making a point that he’s just there, steady every week) but I completely retract it anyway. The Wednesday midfielder was superb against Bristol City and fully deserved his goal.
When the team were too often hitting the ball long (more on that in a bit), Lee was running with it, pressing the City defence and wreaking havoc. And there’s definitely nothing boring about an injury time winner.
3) Stop lumping balls up front!
Wednesday players need to realise that as good as Fletcher is in the air, he’s just as capable with the ball at his feet.
Far too often this season, the ball has been fired up top for the striker and it goes against everything that Wednesday did well in the last campaign. Back then they were all about high-tempo, short, sharp passing and it broke defences down. We haven’t seen enough of that, and with Fletcher’s excellent hold up play and ability to create space for team mates, there’s no reason to go long.
4) And stop conceding goals!
As exciting as it is to give teams a head start, you simply can’t carry on that way and it will inevitably come back to bite you at some stage. W
ednesday aren’t just letting goals slip, they are conceding sloppy goals, which, again goes against everything they were good at last season. Perhaps it’s just a matter of confidence and a clean sheet somewhere will clear it up, but it is nevertheless slightly worrying from their point of view.
Wednesday have not helped themselves by falling behind in each of their last five Championship fixtures. It is a worrying trend and Carvalhal is acutely aware that needs addressing if the Owls are to keep climbing up the table.
It is all very well Carvalhal saying he wants to be entertained and prefers to win matches 5-4 than 1-0 but you won’t achieve anything at this level without solid foundations.
5) It is still early days but Adam Reach looks like he will be a big asset
The club-record signing showed glimpses of his undoubted talent against the Robins. Making his first Owls start, Reach never shirked responsibility and was always direct and prepared to run at City’s defence.
Although he is not blessed with electric pace, Reach clearly understands his game inside out. His close control and trickery stood out.
There are areas where the 23-year-old can and will improve but he gives Wednesday something different in the final third.
He demonstrated his versatility yet again by admirably deputising at left-back when Daniel Pudil was forced off with an injury. It was a very encouraging full debut from the former Middlesbrough man.
6) Tammy Abraham appears the real deal
The Chelsea loanee is the Championship’s leading marksman with eight goals and was a constant nuisance. He led the line intelligently and put in a hard-working display. Abraham is only 18 but he has pace, power and impressed as a loan striker. Is definitely someone one to keep an eye on.
7) Don’t read too much into Sam Hutchinson’s red card
Anyone not at the game will see a red card beside Sam Hutchinson’s name and think ‘here we go again’. The defender-turned-midfielder-turned defender had a poor disciplinary record while playing in the middle of the park and it became something of a running joke (Sam Hutchinson’s Yellow Card Sweepstake) as to how long it would take for his name to make it into the referee’s notebook.
However, this season he’s been excellent on that score and against Bristol City he was merely unlucky in that he slipped and brought down Marlon Pack. It was a definite penalty, but to also send Hutchinson off was a harsh call.
7) The Owls are so strong in their own backyard
Hillsborough is proving to be a fortress for Wednesday. Under Carvalhal, the Owls have only slipped up only three times on their own turf. Indeed, they have lost just twice of their last 25 home fixtures. It is a formidable record and is a great source of pride to Carvalhal.
8) Big numbers in the stands
Over 24,000 turned up for the game and made an incredible racket. Those figures are excellent, given, that Bristol City, with absolutely no disrespect intended, aren’t the most glamorous of teams to face on what would turn out to be a very wet Tuesday night, and that taking into account the journey they weren’t likely to bring too many with them.
There was a bit of pressure put on Wednesday fans with regards to attendances because of how many turned up at Wembley but they are averaging just over 27,000 so far this season and that’s up there with the best in the division now. People are coming back and they keep coming back and that’s good to see.
9) Wednesday’s defensive resources are set to be severely tested
There is a possibility Carvalhal will have to make two changes to his back four for the trip to Birmingham City on Saturday.
Sam Hutchinson will definitely miss out following his sending off. He will serve an automatic one-match ban, meaning club captain and centre-half Glenn Loovens is in the frame to make his first competitive start since their Play-Off Final defeat last May.
The bigger concern for Wednesday is what to do at left-back should Pudil be declared unavailable for selection. Does Reach, primarily a winger, or Liam Palmer, a right-back by trade, step in?
Carvalhal could even hand a debut to Urby Emanuelson. The former Holland international featured in the development squad’s draw with Crystal Palace earlier this week but is still building up his match fitness so it would be a gamble to throw him straight into the deep end.