Dom Howson’s Sheffield Wednesday column: No reason why Owls can’t dent Newcastle United’s title push

Jordan Rhodes
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If points were awarded for artistic impression, the Owls would have scored lowly from their back-to-back South Yorkshire derby clashes with Barnsley and Rotherham United.

But Wednesday achieved a draw and a win from a testing week to raise spirits at S6. As head coach Carlos Carvalhal pointed out, it was a “very good” points return rather than “excellent”. (They were minutes away from getting the job done at Oakwell.)

We have not seen as much fancy football from the Owls this season. Their style of play has not been anywhere near as free-flowing. The fans and media have, rightly, criticised the lack of creativity and inconsistent performances.

But for all their weaknesses, you can’t criticise the team’s character and durability. They have had one injury setback after another but kept picking up results to remain firmly in the hunt for promotion.

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The second half at Rotherham was a complete non-event and pretty horrible to watch at times but it was vital Wednesday stopped the rot against the league’s whipping boys.

Credit Carvalhal for tweaking his formation and personnel on Tuesday. He has received plenty of flak - some fair, some unjustified - in recent weeks but he got his team selection spot on.

The diamond in midfield or 4-3-1-2 system worked like a charm, albeit against the worst side in the division. Gary Hooper, playing off Steven Fletcher and Jordan Rhodes, will only get sharper the more matches he gets under his belt.

Given the Owls have a plethora of striking options at their disposal, should Carvalhal have adopted this approach sooner? Possibly. When you have so many players in one position, why not use them?

It shows how strong Carvalhal’s squad is that he was able to leave out Morgan Fox, Callum McManaman and Marco Matias. It will definitely help Wednesday having a winger or two available for the run-in should they decide to mix things up.

And it may well be that Carvalhal reverts to his favoured 4-4-2 shape when they entertain table-topping Newcastle United tomorrow night.

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Fernando Forestieri’s timely return from injury gives the Owls another big boost. Wednesday have undoubtedly missed Forestieri’s flair, energy and unpredictability.

For the Owls to dent Newcastle’s title hopes, Carvalhal’s side must execute their game plan to perfection. They have to play with pace, intensity and use the home crowd to their advantage.

Newcastle are well-drilled and ruthlessly efficient but not unbeatable. Wednesday have already turned them over once this season so there is no reason why they can’t complete the double. If the players could do it with a little bit of panache, even better.

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