SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY: Owls treading fine line in revival bid

Main threat: Michail Antonio starred against Huddersfield but must start better, says Dave Jones
Main threat: Michail Antonio starred against Huddersfield but must start better, says Dave Jones

MANY catastrophes are due not to a single factor but to a combination of different ones.

The same could be said of the Owls recent fortunes - though it could harsh to group them together as a catastrophe when three successive defeats must be weighed against the extension, right up to September 1, of an unbeaten run that stretched over 19 games, overall, all the way back to February, and there is plenty of life in them yet.

Recent failures have come under the broad umbrella of below-par defending, but there have been different things going wrong, and with various individuals involved.

For example at Crystal Palace, where the fabulous run ended, the team were caught cold after 26 seconds. A cross was played all too easily into the Wednesday box and when the ball arrived no-one was marking the scorer. The second goal in a 2-1 defeat came after a full back was beaten, the resulting cross was missed at the near post and again it was a simple chance for the opposition.

At Brighton, the opposition deserved a lot of credit because they were the better side, all round. But Wednesday were downright unlucky over the first goal, from a free kick, because the shot was deflected.

Then they could have done more to prevent an outstanding run by an outstandiong right back and to mark the scorer. For the third goal, a long ball was played too easily and set a forward running free in between defenders.

Against Huddersfield, a penalty was carelessly conceded - then nobody followed up to clear as the Terriers scored from the rebound. The second goal was down to poor marking - the scorer had a free header - and the third followed a poor penalty decision.

Add that lot up and it sounds a bit grim. But this is team who picked up a good draw at Derby, won well against Birmingham, scored an exciting victory against Millwall, and kept a clean sheet in outplaying a Premier League outfit, Fulham, in the Capital One Cup.

It seems that some players have at times not done themselves justice. There are also some new ones who are still being bedded in.

Jones has tried to keep as settled a team as much as possible but has reacted not unreasonably to form and injuries. He left out Miguel Llera and Rodri against Huddersfield - but neither had the best of games at Brighton.

And the club were unlucky when both of the first-choice full-backs, Reda Johnson and Lewis Buxton, were out injured. Johnson scored on his comeback on Tuesday - but was also faulted for the Terriers’ second goal. Joe Mattock was handed the right back job, and there was little alternative if Jones thought that Kieran Lee was not ready.

Jermaine Johnson, a star in the season’s opening weeks, has been having a tougher time of it lately - perhaps owing to tighter marking.

Michail Antonio had a sticky start to the season but he too has had his moments, and was the main threat against Huddersfield.

But Jones knows that the Owls, including Antonio, could do better going forward as well. Although applauding the winger’s second-half show, he says: “Michail started awful. We can’t wait 20-30 minutes for players to get into their stride. He’s got to start better.”

Jones is right to say that a losing run should not result in the Owls throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

They have played some good stuff this season. An experienced and proven manager with a track record of signing good players, he always believes that the line between success and failure in the Championship is fine.

“We’re just as capable of going three wins on the trot,” he says. “There are a lot of good players here. But there are players who have to stand up and be counted now.”

The fine line that he often mentions is illustrated by this: only seven days ago the Owls would have gone top of the Championship if they had won at Brighton, albeit until other teams played on Saturday. Brighton won to go first, and won again in midweek; they are third, the Owls are 17th. But 12 teams are covered by only three points.

Tomorrow’s visit of Bolton must be viewed as another opportunity.

Teams and ref

OWLS (possible): Kirkland, Lee, Taylor, Beevers, R Johnson, Antonio, Semedo, Barkley, Pecnik, Rodri, Bothroyd. (4-4-2).

Trotters (possible): Bogdan, Mears, Mills, Knight, Alonso, Chung-Yong, M Davies, Spearing, Eagles, K Davies, Ngog. (4-4-2).

KEITH STROUD (Hampshire): Handled the Owls’ 1-0 FA Cup win over West Ham last season and the 3-0 home victory against Oldham in April, and has taken three games so far this season, the last one Leyton Orient’s 4-1 home win again Yeovil on Tuesday.