Match report: Burton Albion 3 Sheffield Wednesday 1
New season, same old problems for Sheffield Wednesday.
What let the Owls down last year was their inability to beat the lesser teams in the division.
It is still early days but it doesn’t appear that they have learned their lessons.
In Carlos Carvalhal’s first season in charge, the Owls lost all three of their away matches at newly-promoted sides and they failed to buck that trend at the Pirelli Stadium.
Carvalhal’s team lacked balance. Too many players were forced to play out of position and his makeshift back four was picked apart.
Tom Lees was sorely missed at the back and Jose Semedo’s injury before the interval added to their woes.
Fernando Forestieri featured in the second half, having apologised to his team-mates, Carvalhal and supporters after refusing to play in Saturday’s goalless draw at Norwich City, but Wednesday’s defensive frailties were the real talking point.
It was Burton who made all the early running in the first ever meeting between the two clubs. Nigel Clough’s side, chasing their first points at this level, hogged possession and controlled the midfield department.
Keiren Westwood sprinted off his line to block Stuart Beavon’s effort after the Brewers striker had beaten the off-side trap and latched on to Tom Naylor’s neat pass.
Without Lees and Glenn Loovens due to injury, the Owls looked vulnerable defensively and the hosts deservedly broke the deadlock.
McFadzean, who started his career at Sheffield United, tapped in from close range after the Owls switched off from Matty Palmer’s well flighted free-kick. It was a sloppy goal to give away and the first Owls had conceded in the league this season.
Burton’s opener acted as a wake-up call to Carvalhal’s troops and McFadzean turned villain in the 12th minute when he was adjudged to have grabbed Sam Hutchinson’s shirt and dragged him to the ground. Hooper made no mistake from 12 yards to open his account.
Wednesday gradually started to settle but the hosts continued to carry the greater attacking threat, Jackson Irvine lashing over after good play out wide by Lloyd Dyer.
Lucas Akins and Dyer in particular proved good outlets on the flanks in Burton’s 3-5-2 formation. Wednesday struggled to contain the duo, with their pace and trickery repeatedly putting them on the back foot.
The Owls lacked creativity and quality in the final third. In one of their rare fluid attacks, Kieran Lee showed some lovely footwork near the byline but his pull back evaded Steven Fletcher, who is still wearing a headguard to protect the nasty wound suffered against Aston Villa.
Burton looked hungrier. They kept pressing and Beavon glanced Akins inviting delivery on to the top of the net before Tom Naylor had a penalty appeal waved away following a collision with Hutchinson.
An injury to Jose Semedo forced Carvalhal to rejig his backline again. Semedo’s replacement Liam Palmer moved to left-back and Daniel Pudil filled in as an emergency centre-half.
It didn’t take the Brewers long to exploit Wednesday’s lack of defensive cover, with record-signing Irvine ghosting in to head home captain John Mousinho’s inch perfect cross on the stroke of half-time.
The Owls needed some inspiration from the interval and Carvalhal turned to his main man at the interval. Forestieri was given a warm reception by Wednesday’s 1,600 plus fans.
But not even Forestieri’s arrival could spark Wednesday into life as Burton continued to have the better of things.
Westwood, the visitors standout performer, produced a stunning save to tip over Tom Naylor’s rasping drive after great play by ex-Wednesday striker Chris O’Grady, who put in a typically hard-working display. Westwood didn’t deserve to finish on the losing side.
Wednesday came on strong in the final quarter of an absorbing contest. Fletcher had three opportunities in as many minutes. He was denied by McLaughlin on the angle, then volleyed wide before firing over after a fine through ball by Forestieri.
Barry Bannan, utilised in a deeper role in the second period, tried his luck from distance, seeing his fierce 25-yard effort spectacularly kept out by McLaughlin.
It was certainly not all one way traffic and Mousinho hit over under pressure from inside the 18-yard box before Dyer grabbed the killer third, smashing an unstoppable left foot effort past Westwood.
The Owls refused to give up and Atdhe Nuhiu’s cross turned shot had to be smartly pushed away by McLaughlin. His late header was also cleared off the line by the impressive O’Grady but it just wasn’t Wednesday’s night.
Burton: McLaughlin; Mousinho, McFadzean, Turner; Akins, Naylor, Palmer (Choudhury 83), Irvine, Dyer; O’Grady, Beavon (Flanagan 74). Substitutes: Bywater, Williamson, Butcher, McCrory, Harness.
Wednesday: Westwood; Hunt, Semedo (Palmer 45), Hutchinson, Pudil; Wallace, Bannan, Lee, Abdi (Forestieri HT); Fletcher, Hooper (Nuhiu 57). Substitutes: Wildsmith, Vermijl, Buckley, Joao.
Referee: Neil Swarbrick (Lancashire)