Sheffield Wednesday 2 Milton Keynes Dons 2: Megson will need to show ruthless streak on return
Like his father, Don, before him Megson is steeped in Owls traditions and retains that fighting spirit which made him a vital cog in Howard Wilkinson’s triumphant side of the Eighties.
Once signed by Nottingham Forest, he lasted for just five months with manager Brian Clough famously saying “he couldn’t trap a bag of cement”.
It was a ruthless streak by Clough, and one which Megson will need in abundance after witnessing first-hand on Saturday the job he has of reviving Wednesday’s faltering season.
Before Christmas, Wednesday were second in the table, but a seven-match winless run has seen them tumble down the League One table and eight points adrift of the play-offs.
Many will have their own views on what caused the slump which eventually cost Alan Irvine his job at Hillsborough.
The problems stem back to Irvine’s decision to tear up his defence. With the new financial clout of owner Milan Mandaric, Irvine drafted in three new defenders in Reda Johnson, Michael Morrison and Mark Reynolds in the January transfer window. Too many changes, too quickly.
Out went captain Darren Purse – the only on-field leader Wednesday had – in a surprise move to Championship side Millwall and home-grown stars Mark Beevers and Tommy Spurr were axed.
When Wednesday narrowly lost at Yorkshire rivals Huddersfield Town on January 3, the Owls back four was Purse, Beevers, Spurr and Jon Otsemobor.
Otsemobor has not played since due to injury, while Beevers and Spurr have been warming the bench, but in their absence the new-look defence has shipped an alarming 15 goals in five League One games.
While Beevers and Spurr have seen their progress stagnate this season, after blossoming from the Owls Academy to be linked with Premier League moves, they will hope the arrival of Megson can kick-start their careers.
After conceding five in midweek to Peterborough, at least Wednesday managed to keep the damage down to just two against the Dons.
The first came when goalkeeper Arron Jameson – making his home debut in place of the injured Nicky Weaver – hesitated in coming for Luke Chadwick’s through ball.
It proved fatal as Keanu Marsh-Brown was able to nip in and prod the ball away from Jameson, the 21-year-old lucky not to receive a straight red card from referee Danny McDermid.
Peter Leven converted the penalty and the visitors doubled their lead on 26 minutes after more poor defending. This time, March-Brown was allowed too much space to get in his left-wing cross but there seemed to be little danger until Daniel Powell flicked the ball beyond Jameson.
In between, James O’Connor, standing in as captain for the injured Weaver, twice went close to scoring in front of the Kop. First he was thwarted by goalkeeper David Martin, then his snap-shot glanced off the top of the crossbar.
Wednesday were handed a lifeline when Gary MacKenzie was shown a second yellow card for hauling down Clinton Morrison eight minutes before half-time, to prompt the on-looking Megson – an animated spectator in front of the dug-out for much of the match – to have a half-time shake-up.
The Owls switched to 4-3-3 to accommodate half-time substitutes Paul Heffernan and Neil Mellor, yet for 20 minutes the hosts still looked ineffectual.
That was until one of the few bits of quality football by Wednesday produced a lifeline goal. Giles Coke, who has struggled to reproduce his early season form since returning from injury, surged forward before sliding the ball through to Mellor, who fired home his 14th goal of the season.
Parity was restored when Michael Morrison got on the end of Coke’s corner, his header picking out Clinton Morrison, who swivelled to hammer the ball beyond Martin.
The Owls were now pushing for a winner, twice penalty appeals were rejected after ‘fouls’ on Mellor and Heffernan, before Daniel Jones raced clear of the defence only to he cynically hacked down by Leven, who joined MacKenzie for an early bath.
Jameson produced a stunning late save to deny Chadwick in a rare Dons attack as Wednesday’s search for a first win since they hammered Bristol Rovers 6-2 on December 11 dragged on.
Rob Kelly, Alan Irvine’s No 2 who picked Saturday’s team, said: “That was a chalk and cheese performance, a real game of two halves, and we could have won it with the penalty incident. But I don’t want to go too much into that because these things happen.
“I don’t think we started the game very well but credit to the players, they came back into it and showed more of what we can do.
“The new manager came in at half-time and made the changes and quite clearly, they worked.”
What is the betting that these will not be the only changes Megson makes as he attempts to halt Wednesday’s woeful run and gatecrash the play-offs?