FOR Gary Megson and the Owls it was all about getting back on their feet on Saturday after being laid low at Bury.
Megson did it in more ways than one, firstly bouncing back up with a smile on his face after being flattened accidentally by a touchline challenge by Danny Batth.
Then after the game the Wednesday manager’s black mood of the Gigg Lane defeat was no more as he spoke in very upbeat terms about an improved performance.
As for the team, they showed resilience and passed a test of character after Chris Lines’s penalty gift to Notts County poured cold water on a splendid start, condemned Wednesday to first-half toil and raised the possibility of a third successive defeat.
But the Owls stuck at it and earned their reward. Patchy their display may have been, but the result and some of their football added up to just the tonic that was needed, and there were several plusses.
Gary Madine, who has been carrying a lot of responsibility on his shoulders as the main man in a team of meagre striker resources, gave himself a boost by getting off the mark - and following orders when he took up a position to convert a great ball by Lewis Buxton from close range.
Megson explained: “I told Gary before the game - maybe I should have told him earlier - that when I took over at Bolton, maybe the best Kevin Davies had ever done was seven goals in a season; he made 73 per cent in one season but didn’t score enough himself.
“But that season he scored 13: what I told him was whenever the ball comes in, just go in that area where it’s difficult to miss, right in front of goal, not near, not far, just keep going in there all the time because the ball eventually drops there, and if he keeps doing that, he’ll get goals.”
Madine said: “He just said not to get too far across the front post or too much on the back post; just stay in the middle and that’s where your goals will come.”
The striker also took on the board the example of Davies: “Fans do get on to strikers if they don’t score goals.
“But they have to look at other things, like winning free kicks around the box and stuff - I think I win my fair share - and running and chasing into corners. You’re not always going to get your goals out there, but you’re making goals for other people.”
Debut-maker Ben Marshall set off as if he was going to be a goal-maker in chief. On the left wing, he showed close control, trickery on the ball and crossing ability, especially in the opening spell when Wednesday were dominant.
Madine said: “I played with him at Carlisle. He’s a very, very good player. I think he showed that.
“He gets on the ball, takes people on, and puts a great ball into the box. He’s a striker’s dream.
“Ben was one of our best players at Carlisle. I actually put a little good word in for him before he came here; our coaches thought he might go to the league above; he’s got that sort of ability.”
Marshall helped to make it an entertaining start, and there was that comical moment when Batth’s sliding tackle on an opponent carried him over the touchline and into his boss, who was standing in the technical area.
But the mood was grim after Chris Lines crazily gave away a penalty by handling. “Chris said it was the first penalty he’s given away,” said Madine. “He said he might as well have just grabbed it and thrown it in the net! He couldn’t believe it, he said.”
It was an aberration for a player who looked good in the games at Bournemouth and Bury.
But Marshall was the new midfield man who took the eye on Saturday.
“Brilliant,” was the word used by Megson to describe him. “His quality on the ball, with both feet was excellent. His touch is very good.
“That was his first 90 minutes since he broke his leg in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final. We’re thankful to Tony Pulis for letting him come here, because there was a bit of competition for him.”
Another of Megson’s signings, Julian Bennett, put Wednesday back in the game with another plus: a sweet volley and his first goal for the club, after Buxton nodded a Lines corner towards the byline where Clinton Morrison - who’d had a chance in first-half stoppage time - cleverly created the scoring opportunity.
For the subsequent 10 minutes the match did not quite follow the script as Notts County enjoyed a lively spell and sub Cristian Montano was permitted a free header from a corner which was saved by Nicky Weaver. Further impressive build-up brought the moment when the Owls’ grip began to close on the points: a perceptive pass from David Prutton, a cross from Buxton, and a finish into the roof of the net by Madine.
Buxton, who was captain because Rob Jones was ruled out by his nose fracture, earned praise from Megson: “He had a strong pre-season, he’s a fit lad, is talented, and is playing really well. He’s starting to get more drive into his game.
“When Rob was out, there was never a thought that the captaincy would go anywhere else other than to Lewis, because he’s been our most consistent player since we came back.”
A County equaliser would have put a blot on the day but sub Craig Westcarr smashed a shot over the bar from 12 yards.
After midfield man Neal Bishop had gone in the 78th minute for collecting two bookings, County threw men forward as if they hadn’t a care.
But the Owls stayed solid and could have extended their lead on the the break as they made it six points from four games.
Gary Megson’s view
I THOUGHT it was terrific, I really did. Up to when they scored they had hardly touched the ball. We had the ball in their box time and time again, and quality. Some of the passing and movement was what we have been trying to encourage the players to do.
It was a real kick in the teeth to concede the penalty when we did.
Chris Lines has made a mistake, which isn’t a crime. It will be a crime if you don’t learn from it. But we could have well done without it.
He got caught ball-watching. It was a terrific pass from the free kick. He’s gone asleep, the ball’s gone over his head then he’s turned his back on it, he hasn’t a clue where it is, and it hits his arm. I’ve got no complaints about the decision.
But I thought we responded really well. I can’t remember them have having too many chances until maybe the last 10 minutes when they were throwing everybody up there.
We’ve played some really good stuff in terms of getting the ball out wide, getting in to feet, and doing so under probably more pressure than anybody else has to play under in this division.