Sheffield Wednesday 5 St Mirren as Owls gear up for big kick-off

Atdhe Nuhiu celebrates. Picture: Steve Ellis
Atdhe Nuhiu celebrates. Picture: Steve Ellis
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When a team suffers an unexpected, heavy defeat, that is when the character of the squad is severely tested.

It might only be pre-season, but Sheffield Wednesday’s new-look side let in some poor, sloppy goals in their shock 4-2 loss at Scunthorpe United last week.

The new scoreboard tells the story

The new scoreboard tells the story

Wednesday needed to go into the 2015/16 Championship campaign on the back of a good, strong performance. The time had come for them to put down a marker and get the Glanford Park horror-show out of their system.

St Mirren headed south with nothing to lose. They set up to be disciplined, hard to break down, lining up in a 4-5-1 formation. It could have been another long and difficult afternoon for Carlos Carvalhal’s men. It was anything but.

The Owls turned on the style, producing a dominant, eye-catching display. There was so much to admire about their one-touch passing and movement. Wednesdayites were richly entertained.

One fan tweeted: “Champagne football”. It wasn’t far off.

Lucas Joao fires in a shot

Lucas Joao fires in a shot

Once Vincent Sasso ended St Mirren’s resistance in the 21st minute, prodding home from close range following a goalmouth scramble, it seemed inevitable Wednesday would go on to comfortably win their final warm-up match.

Carvalhal said: “In our lives, we have problems but it is how you react to those accidents. It’s about being a strong team.

“Our message to the players was to show a good reaction. Our reaction was very good.”

So many individuals shone in the Owls’ fluid 4-2-3-1 system. Jack Hunt excelled at right-back, linking up well with Ross Wallace, who was the architect of the opening two strikes.

Alex Lopez holds off Lewis McLear

Alex Lopez holds off Lewis McLear

Atdhe Nuhiu is full of confidence, having bagged three goals in his last two outings. Lewis McGugan scored a trademark free-kick and pulled the strings in midfield.

Alex Lopez delivered his most accomplished performance since arriving on a season-long loan deal from Celta Vigo.

Sasso enhanced his reputation at centre-back. The Frenchman barely put a foot wrong and looked assured alongside Tom Lees.

The manner of the victory will have given Carvalhal so much heart ahead of the challenges that lie on the horizon but left him with plenty to ponder ahead of the big kick-off.

Will the team who sparkled in the first half start against Bristol City? Who should partner Lees at the heart of their rearguard? If a new left-back is added, should he be plunged straight into action or will Carvalhal stick with Jeremy Helan?

“I’m not saying that will be the first 11 next week,” said Carvalhal. “Maybe yes, maybe no.

“But the point is we have quality in our group.”

Like their giant new scoreboard, which was in operation for the first time on Saturday, there are still a few issues Wednesday need to address.

Carvalhal said: “St Mirren was much closer to the level where I want us to be at but there are things we need to work on.

“We played a little deep in the first 20 minutes but we corrected it.

“We can do better when we win the ball and we will do.

“But we played attractive football. We didn’t lose the ball very easily. We moved the ball well from side to side, put in some good crosses and scored some good goals.

“We pressed well when we lost the ball and moved the ball quickly.

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“Our defensive organisation was good.

“I’m not completely happy because the coach is never completely happy but we are ready to start the Championship.”

Before’s McGugan peach of a free-kick, Nuhiu rose highest to power in a lovely centre by Wallace. Hunt and Wallace ran poor old Sean Kelly ragged.

Nuhiu struck the post with a header before claiming his second after the restart, bundling the ball in from an acute angle after a great move on the right involving Marco Matias and Liam Palmer. The big striker was a given a standing ovation after being replaced by new Owls recruit Lucas Joao.

Angolan-born Joao, recruited from Nacional, put himself about. He is quick, willing to run the channels and prepared to shoot when given a sight at goal. Joao is one for the future.

Marnick Vermijl, linked with a season-long loan move to Preston North End, completed the scoring in the closing stages, rifling an unstoppable right-foot shot past Dan Wilks.

So many departments of the team impressed, albeit against limited opposition. It did feel, at times, like an attack v defence training-ground exercise as neither Keiren Westwood or Joe Wildsmith were ever seriously troubled.

There are bigger and tougher tests to come. But, as one person pointed out in the press box, you can only beat what is put out in front of you.

Goals: Sasso 21, Nuhiu 30, 49, McGugan 40, Vermijl 83

sheffield wednesday (4-2-3-1): Westwood (Wildsmith 61); Hunt (Palmer HT), Lees (De Havilland 80), Sasso (Lachman 68), Helan (Vermijl 73); Hutchinson (Semedo 65), Lopez (Bus 73); Matias (May 65), McGugan (Lee 65), Wallace (Lavery HT); Nuhiu (Joao 50). Substitutes: Dawson, Croasdale, Meadows.

st mirren (4-5-1): Ridgers (Wilks 75); Naismith (Cuddihy 60), Baird, Conlan (Stewart 53), Kelly (Barrowman 60); McMullan (Mallan 64), Howieson (Thompson HT), Goodwin, Morgan, Carswell (Agnew 64); McLear (Gow 64).

Attendance: 9,330.

Referee: Craig Pawson (South Yorks).