Hillsborough fear factor becoming a real issue for Sheffield Wednesday

Sheffield Wednesday hoped to be on zero points after their Hillsborough double header.

Red card for Wednesday's Joost Van Aken (Picture: Steve Ellis)
Red card for Wednesday's Joost Van Aken (Picture: Steve Ellis)

Instead, the Owls – still sat on minus four after starting the campaign with a 12-point deficit – have zero points after home defeats to Brentford and Luton Town.

Defeat to the Bees – last year’s Championship play-off finalists – was no surprise, but losing to Luton highlighted the problems manager Garry Monk still faces.

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A failure to win at Hillsborough – still only one victory at S6 in 2020, with or without fans inside this famous old stadium – is a huge problem, that has not been solved despite a squad revamp this summer.

Owls' Elias Kachunga gets to grips with Town's Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall (Picture: Steve Ellis)

Four homes games in, the Owls have lost two, drawn two, and scored a miserable two goals.

Against Luton – who should have been 2-0 up by half-time – Wednesday’s lack of midfield creativity and goal threat was cruelly exposed.

It took a goal-line clearance from Aden Flint after just 20 seconds to deny James Hylton an early goal for the visitors, who also saw Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu shoot wide after bursting through in a lacklustre first half for the Owls.

Monk opted to pair new signings Jack Marriott and Callum Paterson in attack, but for their hard graft, the duo rarely had a sniff of goal.

A gutted Sheffield Wednesday skipper Barry Bannan at the final whistle (Picture: Steve Ellis)

Paterson had a half chance in the second-half, but saw his effort comfortably saved by Simon Sluga, although the Luton goalkeeper had to be more agile to keep out Joost van Aken’s header, following a cross from fellow centre-half Flint.

It was Flint who came closest to breaking the deadlock, but his headed ‘goal’ from Barry Bannan’s corner was ruled out, with Marriott penalised for pushing off the ball.

With the contest finely balanced, it shifted in Luton’s favour in three second-half minutes.

First, Dutch defender van Aken was rightly sent off for a high lunge on Mpanzu.

Dejected Owls boss Garry Monk (Picture: Steve Ellis)

And before the 10-man Owls could regroup in defence, Mpanzu – who looked dangerous all afternoon with his pace from midfield – side-stepped Bannan, before drilling the ball beyond Cameron Dawson.

The Owls’ penalty claims after Kadeem Harris went down under a challenge from Martin Crainie inside the area were in vain.

Substitute Jordan Rhodes had a chance to snatch an unlikely equaliser, but failed to convert Adam Reach’s cross from close range.

And it could have got worse for Wednesday, as twice the visitors hit the woodwork late in the game.

First Rhys Norrington-Davies saw his cross land on top of the crossbar, before substitute Ryan Tunnicliffe broke clear but saw his long-range shot hit the post and rebound to safety.

“I am really disappointed about the result,” said midfielder Joey Pelupessy, handed a chance with Massimo Luongo and Izzy Brown out injured.

“It was a real Championship game.

“There weren’t any great chances for our side, sometimes you need to be a little bit lucky.

“But we didn’t create that much, so we just need to stick together.

“They had a big chance in the first minute, so that was not a good start from us.

“I had the feeling after 20 minutes, we had more control, we had more calm and composure.

“But we didn’t create much and that was the story of the game,” he added.

In the absence of Luongo and Brown, the burden of creativity in midfield weighs heavy on captain Bannan’s shoulders.

Wednesday’s main attacking outlets are wing-backs Reach and Harris, but when that does not work – like on Saturday – the hosts struggle to eke out chances.

The good news is Chelsea loan midfielder Brown – plus centre-backs Tom Lees and Dominic Iorfa – could return from injury for Wednesday night’s derby trip to neighbours Rotherham United.

With playing at Hillsborough such an obvious issue for Wednesday – and a problem Monk has to address – back-to-back road trips to the Millers and second-bottom Wycombe Wanderers on Saturday could be a welcome sight.

The first target for the Owls is to bank those four points and wipe out that 12-point deficit.

“It is in our hands to make it a good season, that’s the most important thing to focus on,” said Pelupessy.

“You can always lose a game, but you have to work for the next game.

“The good thing is we have a game on Wednesday, and that’s what we have to focus on. It’s always nice to play in a derby.

“I am happy to get the opportunity (to play). I work every day really hard in training, and happy to start and feel that trust.

“For me the squad is stronger, new players, fresh players with a new mentality, and that is only a good thing.”

Owls boss Monk said: “Losing two games in a row is disappointing and frustrating but we have to keep a level head. It’s a difficult situation for everyone.

“We have to pick ourselves up and get ready for the next game.”

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