GARY MEGSON’S dramatic half-time intervention helped his new club Sheffield Wednesday come from two goals down to snatch a draw against nine-man MK Dons.
The former West Brom and Bolton manager was only unveiled as the new Hillsborough boss on Friday evening, with coach Rob Kelly picking the team for the League One visit of the Dons less than 24 hours later.
Megson, returning to the club he played for twice during the Eighties and for whom his father Don starred in the 1966 FA Cup final, said before kick-off he would have just a watching brief, from the dugout, to run the rule over his new team.
But after witnessing a shambolic first 45 minutes, during which he was pacing the touchline with less than 10 minutes gone, Sheffield-born Megson took the half-time team talk.
He switched formation, going 4-3-3 from the traditional 4-4-2, and sent on strikers Paul Heffernan and Neil Mellor to beef up the attack.
It paid off as Wednesday battled back to level through goals from substitute Mellor and Clinton Morrison, and should have snatched victory in a pulsating final 20 minutes.
The Dons’ Peter Leven became the second visiting player to be shown a red card – Gary MacKenzie departed in the first half – after a cynical challenge from behind on Daniel Jones as he raced clear of the defence.
And referee Danny McDermid made two debatable calls on penalty appeals after challenges on Heffernan and Mellor as Wednesday applied the pressure.
Not that Megson’s hands-on approach surprised Owls midfielder James O’Connor, the duo having been together at West Brom and Stoke, although he was startled to hear before kick-off that the new manager would be taking a ‘back seat’ for the match.
“That made me smile when I heard that,” said O’Connor. “Gary Megson does not take a back seat when it comes to football, his passion will not let him. I think it’s fantastic.
“It’s fair to say he wasn’t too enamoured by the first-half performance; he had every right (not) to be. We didn’t do ourselves justice, but in the second half there was a vast improvement.
“He popped in before the game to say hello, but then came in the dressing room at half-time and felt the need to make a few points.
“He did and great credit to him. He changed the formation and it really worked for us.
“In the end it was really disappointing not to win the game. There were two definite penalties. – Mellor was pushed in the back, then the Paul Heffernan one you, don’t get any clearer than that.”
O’Connor believes owner Milan Mandaric has pulled off a real coup in landing Megson, who turned down two other job offers in the eight weeks since he came back on the job market after 12 months’ gardening leave following his exit from Bolton Wanderers exit.
“I have played under Gary a couple of times, at Stoke and West Brom,” said O’Connor. “He was very unfortunate at Stoke because the Icelandic takeover happened and he lost his job. Then at West Brom he had great success, followed by success at Bolton.
“He’s actually a very under- rated manager. He didn’t get the credit he deserves at Bolton.
“I have worked with him before and he is someone who is very passionate about this football club; even when he was at the other clubs he would always talk about Sheffield Wednesday.
“I am delighted to see him get a chance here and hope he can bring us success because I know how passionate he is about the club.
“He is very tactically aware – the second half shows that. His passion and commitment, you can see that by the way he gets involved from the touchline.
“I would imagine that will be the same as always, probably a little bit more because it’s Sheffield Wednesday. He will be extra determined to be successful here.
“There’s a lot of history here for Gary; his dad was involved, and he shares a real love for Wednesday.
‘It’s a proper football club’, he would always say.”
The draw leaves Wednesday languishing eight points of the play-off pace, and with five successive away games to come in February it will take a Herculean effort, even with Megson at the helm, to move into contention.
Not that O’Connor, the stand-in captain on Saturday in place of the injured Nicky Weaver, is writing off their promotion chances just yet.
“Without doubt, I am still looking for us to get promoted this season.
We need to make sure we produce that second-half performance for the rest of the season.”
Megson will need to show ruthless streak: Page 4.