GARY MEGSON is adding up the plus points after Wednesday battled to victory at Victoria Park.
The Owls not only became the first team to beat Hartlepool this season.
They also recorded their third successive win, a second clean sheet in a row, and another happy away-day that suggested the previous one at Yeovil was no flash in the pan.
Enjoying it all was a sell-out away end where 1,002 Owls fans acknowledged their team’s impressively steely display and earned a “fantastic” rating from the manager for their backing throughout.
The game was not pretty, but that assessment pales alongside the result, which also gave Wednesday their sixth League and Cup win on the trot against Pools.
“We know we’ve got character,” said Megson.
“We get the stats and we know that the distances we run and our intensity are always a lot better than the opposition’s.
“We’re strong at set pieces, and we haven’t conceded from a direct set piece for the last six games.
“We can pass the ball a lot better, create a lot better but that was the first game Hartlepool have lost this season; that’s two clean sheets on the spin and two away wins on the spin; our support was sold out three weeks ago and they were fantastic.
“What pleased me was our honesty in throwing ourselves in the way of things. It was that kind of game. We want to play better than that but it’s very difficult when they’re sending their goalkeeper up for a free kick from 70 yards.”
That was just a small part of Hartlepool’s ploy of aerial bombardment. It was impossible to keep count of the number of balls launched toward the Owls box in the 90 minutes, or the number that were headed away, with Rob Jones an absolute colossus in that respect and not the only one who made blocks and tackles.
It was by no means one-way traffic, more of a tight and intensely competitive contest, with Wednesday knowing beforehand that Hartlepool would have a right go against the club regarded by manager Mick Wadsworth as “by far the biggest in League One.”
Tactically, Megson got it right, starting with James O’Connor on the left side of midfield to combat the potential threat of Nobby Solano, who had no profound effect on the game, and with Ben Marshall on the right, with the Owls boss believing that he could get the better of left back Ritchie Humphreys.
“We thought that the only person in their team who could do something on his own other than Boyd, was Solano, because of his history and he’s a quality player,” explained Megson.
“We just wanted James in and around him, and on the other side, with all due respect to Ritchie, he’s not getting any younger and we wanted to get Ben at him more often than not, which we did in the first half. But in the second half there wasn’t a great deal of football played by anybody. It was just about heart, and we had that in spades.”
It was also a wise move by Megson when, with Chris O’Grady already having come on for David McGoldrick, who had taken a couple of nasty knocks in the first half, and with Hartlepool applying pressure, Wednesday switched to 4-5-1, in the 67th minute.
They looked a sturdy unit, even if it did mean top scorer Gary Madine being taken off. He had become a target for the home crowd and had been booked after he took exception to a slap around the head from defender Peter Hartley.
I feared that Madine, who had to be calmed down by Rob Jones and team-mates, would be sent off before the end - but to his credit he kept his composure after the flare-up had subsided.
Marshall was a threat in the first half with his runs, and his long throw to the near post made Reda Johnson’s first goal of the season. Megson said, with a smile: “Ben announced a few weeks ago that he’d got a long throw; he says he can throw it even further!”
Jose Semedo also stood out in the first period as a powerful obstacle against Pools attempts to make ground through the middle; Johnson was always a real presence at left back.
Wednesday did have some close calls in spells of pressure: Anthony Sweeney twice missed with headers and sub Andy Monkhouse hit the post from 20 yards.
But Madine was desperately close to converting a low ball across goal by Marshall; Scott Flinders had to make saves from a 36-yard free kick by Marshall and an intended cross from Johnson, and sub Liam Palmer could have made it 2-0 in stoppage time.
Palmer went around the keeper but shot across goal from a narrow angle. The Owls then safely saw out out the last few minutes.