Sheffield Wednesday: Sam Hutchinson late hero in game Carlos Carvalhal's men should have won... Brentford 1 Owls 1
A draw that felt like a win.
No wonder Sam Hutchinson went beserk in front of the 1,600-plus travelling fans after his last-gasp header salvaged a deserved point for Wednesday at Griffin Park. His reaction was sheer, unadulterated relief.
“When the goal went in, I completely lost it, and not just because I scored but because of what happened before as well,” admitted Hutchinson. “We had enough chances to comfortably win the game
“I don’t score that many goals, so I completely lost it and got as many celebrations as I could rolled into one!”
It would have been a complete injustice had the Owls left West London empty-handed. Carlos Carvalhal’s charges outplayed Brentford for long periods and created a sackful of chances.
Wednesday should have been out of sight in the first period. The visitors were utterly dominant but their wayward finishing let them down.
It was a first-half annihilation. A 0-0 hammering!
After the interval, the Bees were much improved and Lasse Vibe gave them a 54th-minute lead after an uncharacteristic mistake by Keiren Westwood.
When debutant David Jones, one of three Wednesday changes, harshly received a second yellow card for dissent with 17 minutes remaining, there seemed to be no way back for the visitors.
But the Bees retreated deeper and deeper towards their 18-yard line after Vibe was also dismissed for two bookable offences and Hutchinson made them pay.
Hutchinson said: “It was 100 per cent vital that we got that goal at the end to take into the international break because it makes a huge difference.”
Wednesday would have been kicking themselves had they let Brentford off the hook. Their first-half showing was by far and away the team’s best performance of the season. Brentford could have had no complaints if they had gone into the interval trailing by two or three goals.
It was a combination of desperate last-ditch defending, poor finishing and superb goalkeeping by Daniel Bentley which kept Wednesday at bay.
Bees boss Dean Smith, who skippered the Owls during his playing days, admitted: “We were very, very poor. There were basic errors all over the pitch, people weren’t talking, people were getting too tight and closing on their own.
“We were very bad and they were very good and you can’t afford to do that against good players. The positive was to get in at 0-0 because they should have been out of sight with the chances they had. They didn’t take them and we regrouped at half-time.”
Daniel Pudil, Tom Lees, Lucas Joao, twice, Fernando Forestieri, twice, and Steven Fletcher all could have scored. Brentford stood off the Owls, giving them far too much time and space to play their slick, passing football.
With Forestieri on the left flank and Joao partnering Fletcher up front, there was a much better balance and shape to Wednesday. They always carried a threat going forward.
On the same ground 11 months ago, Joao hogged all the headlines after grabbing a late winner. He was also on target against the same opponents in the reverse fixture. On both occasions, he made an impact as a substitute.
Carvalhal played Joao from the start on Saturday, but it was an afternoon to forget for Joao. The Portugal international should have put the Owls ahead just before the half hour mark. After good play by Barry Bannan on the right flank, Kieran Lee supplied a pinpoint cross which Joao some how contrived to hit over the bar.
Joao got his feet in an almighty tangle and, with an open goal, ended up hooking it over with his right foot. It was a truly woefulmiss. An absolute sitter.
Joao slumped to the turf and put his hands on his head after spurning the chance. It could have affected him for the rest of the contest but, to his credit, he kept battling and it took a wonderful save on the stretch from Bentley to keep out his header before the stroke of half-time.
Things could have been very different had Joao taken his first opportunity but Wednesday made other errors which prevented them from picking up maximum points.
Vibe pounced to give Brentford the lead against the run of play after the forward had blocked Westwood’s attempted clearance before firing into an empty net. Westwood dithered and Vibe pounced.
But Hutchinson spared Westwood and Joao’s blushes in added on time, heading in Bannan’s near-post free-kick.
FINALLY ON THE RIGHT LINES
Carvalhal challenged his players to rediscover their “heart, soul and determination” following back-to-back defeats. They did that and then some.
“We showed we are from Sheffield, this is why we are workers and how we must fight in the Championship,” he said.
Carvalhal said their display reminded him of the side’s 3-1 loss at Burnley in September 2015. He felt that result was the turning point in their campaign.
His Wednesday team have not yet turned the corner. They remain a work in progress and have not achieved the fast start Carvalhal craved.
The Owls’ misfiring attack is a big concern heading into the two-week international break. One goal from open play in five outings is an unacceptable return given the embarrassment of riches Wednesday have at their disposal. But a point at Brentford at least gives them something to build on.