ANALYSIS: Speed the key as ten man Sheffield Wednesday beat Reading 3-1 on the opening day

Lee Bullen starts his third stint in temporary charge of the Owls with a 3-1 victory over Reading.
Lee Bullen starts his third stint in temporary charge of the Owls with a 3-1 victory over Reading.
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PACE, as caretaker manager Lee Bullen readily admitted on the eve of the new season, is something that Sheffield Wednesday have not been overly blessed with in recent years.

“It is maybe something that we have missed since JJ (Jermaine Johnson) and (Michael) Antonio left the club,” he said about two widemen who both left Hillsborough in 2014.

Rectifying that amid an often difficult summer - Wednesday spent most of the close season operating under a soft transfer embargo and then lost their manager - has not been easy.

But, on the evidence of this opening day triumph at Reading, the Owls can once again turn to sheer, unadulterated pace in their quest to reach the Premier League.

Kadeem Harris and Moses Odubajo, both signed as free agents by Steve Bruce before his abrupt departure for Newcastle United midway through last month, made a storming start to their careers with the south Yorkshire club.

Harris, operating on the left side of a front three and preferring to stay wide rather than drift inside, netted the opening goal on the half hour via the sort of direct running that meant Royals full back Andy Yiadom was never able to rest until the Owls new boy was substituted 12 minutes from time.

The Londoner left Yiadom, no slouch in his Barnsley days, trailing once he had latched on to Liam Palmer’s through ball before finishing with aplomb past Joao Virginia.

It was the highlight of a hugely encouraging afternoon for the wideman, who had earlier been denied by Virginia after again racing clear of Yiadom.

Odubajo, the former Hull City full back, proved himself to be no slouch, either. His forays forward from right back became an increasingly valuable attacking weapon for Wednesday as the game wore on.

Again, his pace clearly frightened Reading - meaning the home defence often seemed to hang back in an attempt not to get caught out.

The biggest beneficiaries to having Harris and Odubajo on opposite flanks were Sam Hutchinson and Barry Bannan, who had options whenever looking up with the ball at their feet.

Harris’ pace played a part in Wednesday’s second on 56 minutes, too. His dart down the wing and cross found Steven Fletcher, whose goalbound effort was headed behind by Matt Miazga.

From the resulting corner, Bannan picked out Hutchinson and he gave Royals goalkeeper Joao Virginia no chance with a bullet header. Lucas Joao then rounded things off deep into stoppage time, turning smartly 15 yards out before finishing into the bottom corner.

Formation

Plenty, therefore, to please Bullen as he waits to hear what chairman Dejphon Chansiri plans to do about the club's vacancy. By opting for a 4-3-3 formation, the Scot took the game to the hosts and could be pleased with an afternoon that also saw Julian Borner make his debut in defence.

The German was solid enough alongside Tom Lees but it was the return of pace to the side via Harris and Odubajo that must have most encouraged the travelling fans on their return journey north.

Wednesday had the odd concerning moment. Not least in a final ten minutes that had to be played without Keiren Westwood following his red card for clattering Mo Barrow just outside the box.

It was a similar story of hearts in mouths for many among the travelling 2,149 fans in the first half as the home side twice screamed for a penalty.

The first came when Tom Lees blocked a Yiadom shot on the line with what seemed to be his arm. Later, Steven Fletcher jumped too early to attempt a headed clearance and looked to use his marker as leverage.

Both times, however, referee James Linington brushed aside the appeals to ensure even Yakou Meite’s looping header on 54 minutes could not prevent Bullen’s third stint as caretaker manager started with a 3-1 triumph.