Match report: Sheffield Wednesday 1 Bournemouth 2

More injury problems for the Owls as striker Atdhe Nuhiu comes off with a shoulder problem.
More injury problems for the Owls as striker Atdhe Nuhiu comes off with a shoulder problem.

Someone asked in jest whether Neil Mellor had brought his boots.

The Owls could do with the Mellor who scored 20 goals for them three seasons ago.

Sadly he had to retire because of injury and he was at Hillsborough on Saturday just to do a media job.

But his presence was a reminder of how Wednesday lack firepower and are very reliant on Connor Wickham.

They were unlucky on Saturday to lose the striker who had netted all of their four goals in the previous six games, and to be without Glenn Loovens, whose defending has been a calming influence.

The Owls also had nine players on the injured list by the end of the game, with Atdhe Nuhiu picking up a shoulder injury and making the shortage of strikers even more acute.

But that could not altogether excuse one of the worst team performances of the season.

Wednesday conceded soft goals for the umpeenth time, lacked quality going forward and defending and were generally second best against opposition who were tight and tidy and had a useful centre-forward in ex-Rotherham star Lewis Grabban but had won only one of their previous nine games.

Stuart Gray called the Owls a Jekyll and Hyde team. For they played well and won against Leicester, could have nicked a point with less impressive form in the defeat by Forest, scooped a clean sheet and three points with a disciplined show at Watford and were outplayed by a classier Wigan outfit in the first half of last weeks’s abandoned contest.

Then against Bournemouth they were the slicker side for the first few minutes. - but after that it was more like relegation form as they went two down and struggled to score, with Jacques Maghoma’s first goal for the club eventually coming as a late consolation.

The first goal was awful from a Wednesday perspective. Bournemouth were able to build from the keeper, through midfield and create a strike at goal without any hindrance from the Owls. Nobody closed down Matt Ritchie properly and his

shot from the edge of the box found the bottom corner though Damian Martinez got a touch.

The second goal, which was preceded by a smart save by Martinez from Andrew Surman, was easy as well. Another good ball sent Grabban running away from Miguel Llera to

beat Damian Martimnez through sheer power. But no keeper likes conceding at his near post.

It could have been a third goal had centre-back Elliott Ward hit the target with a free header from a corner.

Wednesday were restricted to shots from medium to long range because

they could not create anything of note - except for a glancing header by Nuhiu from a Jose Semedo cross, which was saved by Lee Camp.

Gray had so few attacking options that Andelko Savic, the youngster on loan from Sampdoria, was the only striker on the bench - and he had to be brought on for a debut when Nuhiu went off.

Savic had only one chance to impress. In the 81st minute he headed aimlessly across the box when he might have picked out someone else or gone for goal - a forgiveable sign of inexperience.

Gray tried four different combinations up front. First it was Nuhiu and Jer

maine Johnson, then Nuhiu and Maghoma, Savic and Maghoma, and finally Reda Johnson sent up from left-back to become an extra striker in the closing stages, with Joe Mattock coming into the defence.

Maghoma got his goal after the keeper dropped a cross and the ball bounced to the forward off left-back Charlie Daniels. Suddenly there was a glimmer of hope - but still no guile. Bournemouth not only hung on but should have scored a third in the last minute of normal time when Grabban ran away from Llera only to shoot tamely.

A draw would have flattered Wednesday, who seemed ill at ease after going two down.

Gray admitted: “You saw bits of confidence drain out of one or two players. I’ve said to the players ‘if you’re not having the best of games, it doesn’t stop you from running around and competing and putting a foot in’.

“We’ve ended up losing Atdhe; we’re short of strikers, and in the end I’ve had to put Reda down the middle.”

That meant a more direct approach. Gray added: “For the last 10 to 15 minutes, it’s not the way I want to play football, but we had to get the ball around Reda. We’ve got a goal back from it, then suddenly we got into several good positions and again our final ball has let us down.”

Gray will hope for better at Blackburn on Boxing Day and for returns by Wickham (hamstring) and Loovens (back spasm).

Wickham was so close to playing on Saturday that he took a fitness test, which he failed. “With a hamstring, you have to be very careful,” added Gray. “The last thing you want is for him to be out for three or four weeks.

“The treatment room is very full. There are probably seven or eight in there who would probably have been playing.

“Most clubs have got it the same. Unfortunately ,it seems to have affected us regarding strikers and options on the bench. We’ve got Chris Maguire coming back from his loan (at Coventry) on Christmas Day. In his first game for them he scored two good free-kicks.

“We could have done with him out there when we got a free-kick in the centre of goal. First half, I thought our crossing was decent. Last 10 to 15 minutes, our decision-making and final ball in the box were not good enough and not acceptable.”

So it’s back to the training ground for more work on trying to correct flaws - with Gray regetting that an opportunity to move out of the bottom three was missed.

“If we keep performing like that we’ll probably stay in the botton three,” he admitted. “But there are enough games to put it right. and there are enough teams around us.

“We’re a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde at the moment. We beat Leicester and Watford then suddenly we put in a performance like that.

“I’ll be beating myself up trying to work out why, as well.”