Sheffield Wednesday: Why Owls will edge crunch duel
The time for talking is almost over.
Tomorrow Sheffield Wednesday entertain Cardiff City in a Championship play-off decider.
The Owls have home advantage and a healthy four-point cushion ahead of the biggest match of their season.
Will Carlos Carvalhal’s charges pick up the point they need to cement a top-six finish or will there be a late twist in the tale?
Ritchie Humphreys and Darren Purse, who have represented both clubs in their careers, assess where this weekend’s crucial clash will be won and lost.
Dom Howson (DH): Wednesday only need a point to secure a top-six finish. How do they approach it?
Ritchie Humphreys (RH): They just have to play their normal game and go out looking for the win. I’m sure if they are drawing towards the end of the game that they’ve got plenty of players who can see it out.
The players will be so focused. They know they have got jobs to do. They will want to do it for themselves, their families, the supporters and the football club.
It definitely helps that they are at home. When there is almost a full house at Hillsborough, it is a fantastic atmosphere. It is well known around the country that Wednesday have a good following home and away. The fans will be doing their best to be the extra man and make plenty of noise to try and help the players get the result.
DH: With there being so much at stake for both clubs, how big a factor will nerves be on the day?
Darren Purse (DP): The team who relaxes the most will invariably win.
It is more often than not a moment of madness which decides these games whether it is someone getting sent off or a player making a bad decision. That’s what usually makes or breaks these games.
DH: What are your thoughts on how the two clubs have performed this year?
RH: They have both had good seasons. Sheffield Wednesday’s home form has been very strong so they will be confident of getting the job done this weekend. I saw them in action against QPR a few months ago. I know Lee Bullen well and Carlos Carvalhal has come in and done a tremendous job.
Wednesday have got good players all over the pitch. They have goal-scorers and people who can create like Fernando Forestieri and Barry Bannan.
DP: I’m not surprised at all by how well they have both done. When you look at the infrastructure and fan-bases the clubs have got, they should both be playing in the Premier League.
Wednesday’s form has been quite good throughout the season whereas Cardiff started quite poorly and slowly got better and better. They both deserve to be where they are but, if I was a betting man, I would probably put money on Wednesday making the play-offs.
But it should be an entertaining game and there will be pressure on both sides. Cardiff know they have got to win and that might play into Wednesday’s hands. If they push too hard, Wednesday could catch them on the break.
DH: Just over seven years ago Darren, you captained Cardiff when the team needed a point at Hillsborough on the final day to secure a play-off berth. A 1-0 defeat saw Preston pip you to sixth spot. What are your memories of that occasion?
DP: It was a massive game. I think we brought around 7,000 fans to Hillsborough. We lost to Preston 6-0 a few weeks before that which made it really tight.
I missed a good chance to put us in front. I had a strike from six yards out which hit our striker Michael Chopra on the line. It is one of them where you do look back and think ‘what if’. We ended up losing after Jermaine Johnson scored a 25-yard screamer which flew into the top corner.
It wasn’t the result we wanted, but it was a great game to be involved in and I’m sure the atmosphere will be just as electric tomorrow.
DH: Will that disappointment give Cardiff extra motivation?
DP: I don’t think so. Both clubs have changed a lot since that day. They have got new owners, had a number of managers and there are probably only a couple of players on each side who played in that game so I don’t think it will have any bearing on how the game will pan out.
DH: Sixteen years have passed since Wednesday last dined at the top table of English football. What would it mean to Sheffield if they ended their Premier League exile?
RH: It would be huge if one of the Sheffield clubs got back into the top-flight. I want to see them both up there. It’s a great time for sport in the city with Jamie Vardy, Joe Root, Jessica Ennis-Hill and Danny Willett doing well so Wednesday getting promoted would cap everything off.