Sheffield Wednesday, Huddersfield Town and Rotherham ended their Easter programmes with huge results in their own ways which have made the battle to stay in the second tier even more intriguing and their hunger to get onto the field today massive.
The Owls, who kicked off bottom of the table, enjoyed a 5-0 win over Cardiff City as energising as Huddersfield and Rotherham’s defeats were demoralising. For the Millers it was who they lost to as much as how, beaten 3-0 at home to a Wycombe Wanderers side who started and finished Easter Monday in last place.
There was no shame for the Terriers in who they lost to the next day – Norwich City have beaten most sides in the division which is why they will not be in it much longer. For Carlos Corberan’s players it was the manner and scale of the defeat, 5-0 down at half-time, 7-0 at the end.
Huddersfield and Rotherham meet at the John Smith’s Stadium, the first of consecutive home games three days apart for a side who have won 29 of their 43 points there, the first of four in eight days for Paul Warne’s visitors. Next week they play Birmingham City and Coventry City, the only two sides separating them from Huddersfield.
Today should be about which team’s psychological scars heal the quickest.
“If you get beaten 3-0 off anyone you’re going to be down but I think it was just the way we played,” says Rotherham midfielder Jamie Lindsay. “We knew it was such a big game and for us not to perform was gutting but in football you can’t feel sorry for yourself, there’s no time.
“For the last couple of days it’s been everybody picking each other up. Everybody was hurt by it, everybody at the club, not just the players but the players need to take responsibility.
“We know we’ve got 10 massive games (left this season) and we need to try and put it right.”
Neither side has been able to wallow in disappointment.
“The debrief lasted for 12 hours really and then you have to move on,” says Lindsay’s manager Warne, whose side’s three or four games in hand on their rivals muddy the waters. His opposite number Corberan insists: “I prefer to play again soon. The sooner you can change the feeling the better for the body and the mind.
“It was only a few days ago and you cannot erase the performance. If you forget, you will repeat (the mistakes) and the key is not to repeat a performance like that one.
“It’s important to analyse to understand why these problems arose, why we didn’t solve the issues from throw-ins, why we did well in set-pieces but we didn’t press well and especially we didn’t defend well in the low block because when you have a game similar to that one, you need to have a better solution and sometimes that comes from feedback.”
The challenge for Wednesday in this most inconsistent of divisions is to show Monday was not a glorious one-off. Having drawn level on points with Rotherham and narrowed their goal-difference advantage to just two, the feel-good factor will be completely wasted if the Owls do not win at Queens Park Rangers this afternoon. Do so and it will be three wins out of four, the sort of form that makes bums squeak amongst the teams around them.
As a classic nothing-to-play-for mid-table side with hit-and-miss form to match, they could not ask for better opponents than QPR at this stage of the season.
“It shows the level they can get to, the understanding they have with each other,” says their manager Darren Moore, who will again be absent as he completes his isolation after contracting a debilitating bout of Covid-19 last week.
“Against Norwich and Barnsley the performance has been there in patches but not sustained patches.
“We have to keep building on performances going forward. It was a good all-round team performance.
“There’s a lot of things from an individual perspective but it’s important we build on top of that and keep our performances heading that right way.”
It would be naïve to claim that by this evening we will know how the Championship relegation battle is going to pan out, but we should certainly have a clearer idea.
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