Best laid plans fail to pay off for Sheffield Wednesday and Darren Moore

Sheffield Wednesday followed the Darren Moore plan last night, and still lost.

Despair at the final whistle for Sheffield Wednesday's  Tom Lees    Picture: Steve Ellis
Despair at the final whistle for Sheffield Wednesday's Tom Lees Picture: Steve Ellis

They are just not quite good enough to play Championship football the way he wants them to – at least not consistently, and not against opposition as ruthless as Swansea City.

For half an hour they moved the ball around as their manager wanted and visibly grew in confidence. Then they made a mistake and conceded.

When the Owls concede first, they invariably lose. Last night it was 2-0.

Sheffield Wednesday's Josh Windass. Picture: Steve Ellis

The gap to safety is still seven points, but now they only have 15 to play for. Coventry City have 18.

Moore asks his players to pass in tight quarters, even in their own half. Julian Borner bombed forward enthusiastically from left-sided centre-back, Josh Windass and Jordan Rhodes worked hard and made good runs.

But it involves risks, and yet to have a transfer window or even much time on the training ground, Moore does not have quite enough of the players to play his way. His attitude will be for them to carry on in the same vein, just get better at it.

Borner showed how it should work at the end of the first half, beating Andre Ayew deep in his own half and clipping a ball which deserved a better touch than it got from Liam Shaw.

Owls' Liam Shaw fires in shot to force a brilliant save from City keeper Freddie Woodman. Picture: Steve Ellis

The problem is, it did not always work.

Tom Lees at his best is a proper defender, but not a ball-playing one. When he let a pass run across him in the 32nd minute, Ayew robbed it, nudged the ball across for Jamal Lowe and the Owls went behind.

“It was just a lapse in concentration,” reflected Moore at full-time. “It was more of an error by us than Swansea doing it to us and that’s more disappointing. Nine times out of 10 we do that, we get out the other end and play.

“There’s many occasions we got it right, broke the lines of Swansea’s defence and advanced up the pitch. One or two will remember the moment that led to the goal but when we do get it right we can cause the opposition problems.”

Andre Ayew of Swansea City evades a tackle by Tom Lees of Sheffield Wednesday. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)

Looking at the game as a whole, it had not been coming, but Lees served warning when overplaying in the ninth minute. Wayne Routledge cut the ball out and his side won a corner the Owls defended.

Joey Pelupessy had a shot blocked in the 13th minute when Borner was on his toes to get in front of Ayew as Ryan Bennett tried to pick him out. Soon the German was forcing his way down the inside-left channel, only for Marc Guehi to cut out his ball in.

Windass and Rhodes did well to pressure Routledge into conceding a corner but a backpedalling Rhodes could not get his header under the bar from it.

When Barry Bannan won the ball in midfield, Wednesday found Shaw, in the hole of a 3-4-1-2, via Adam Reach, and Freddie Woodman made an excellent left-handed save. So to be behind five minutes later was a killer blow, particularly as it is December 2019 since they last won from 1-0 down.

The mistakes kept coming after the interval, though Sam Hutchinson and Rhodes, with a very good slide tackle, made up for giving the ball away by quickly winning it back. Swansea noisily appealed for a penalty when Borner tackled Kyle Naughton in the penalty area.

They kept making half-chances too. Windass found by an excellent pass from midfield and cutting in on his left foot before Bennett blocked the shot.

In the 70th minute Bennett did brilliantly to take Liam Palmer’s chipped cross off the head of substitute Callum Paterson. A minute later the wing-back was in again and took the low road, only for the ball to be booted clear.

But the threat was not all one way.

“Head it! Head it! Head it!” the recalled Keiren Westwood screamed as Borner dithered over a bouncing ball. When he finally did, the weak touch let Ayew in, and Westwood had to come off his line to sort things out himself.

In the 74th minute, the freshly-introduced Connor Roberts showed Palmer how it was done, peeling out to the same flank and putting in a cross Jay Fulton headed in.

Moore cannot and will not accept the inevitable.

“Whilever the numbers are still there we’ll be looking to the points on Saturday in another home game,” he said. “It’s not in our make-up to feel sorry for ourselves, we’ve just got to move on.”

Victory moved Swansea up to third, four points ahead of Barnsley.

Sheffield Wednesday: Westwood; Hutchinson, Lees, Borner (Green 76); Palmer, Pelupessy, Bannan, Reach; Shaw (Brown 65); Windass, Rhodes (Paterson 65).
Unused substitutes: Wildsmith, Urhoghide, Penney, Hunt, Harris, Kachunga.

Swansea City: Woodman; Naughton, Bennett, Guehi, Manning (Bidwell 75); Fulton, Grimes, Hourihane (Smith 80); Ayew, Routledge (Roberts 73), Lowe.
Unused substitutes: Whittaker, Hamer, Dhanda, Latibeaudiere, Cooper, Freeman.

Referee: M Donohue (Lancs).

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