Last-match showdown for Sheffield Wednesday
Whether Sunday’s trip to Pride Park is the big relegation decider which has loomed on the fixture list for a long time or, from an Owls perspective, an irrelevance will depend how Rotherham United fare at Luton Town tomorrow. If the Millers win at Kenilworth Road then on top of everything else the Owls need to go their way will be a big goal difference swing. Relegation will not be inevitable, but highly likely.
But if the Millers fail to win – it is seven matches since they last did – it goes to the final weekend.
If the Owls play against Derby County as they did versus their east Midlands rivals Forest, they will go down. With six straight defeats, Wayne Rooney’s Rams are hardly world-beaters but Wednesday will need to win, and therefore score. They could have played all day at Hillsborough on Saturday and not done so.
Sunday could be completely different or exactly the same – you just do not know with a team which last month beat play-off contenders 5-0 on a Monday, then lost 4-1 to a team with nothing to play for on the Saturday.
It was a strange atmosphere at full-time against Forest, home players sat despondent on the pitch in classic just-relegated poses. It was not the full-on Juninho, but despite assistant manager Jamie Smith’s insistence to the contrary, it looked fairly resigned.
With the game kicking off early, Smith spoke to the media with the matches which would – only temporarily as it turned out – decide his club’s fate having just started. Derby took a lead which would have relegated the Owls, but blew it. Wycombe Wanderers and Rotherham got results putting the bottom three level on points.
Wednesday had created more chances than Forest, but never looked like taking one. They gifted the visitors a penalty, but having conceded it, Keiren Westwood redeemed himself.
It was a poor game, but for different reasons. Forest had nothing to play for and it showed. Wednesday had everything to play for and it showed.
“There were some nerves, I suppose, and the occasion maybe got to us a little bit – particularly in the first half when we were a bit frantic on the ball and our decision-making wasn’t good enough at times,” said Smith, again taking the team in the absence of Darren Moore, who may return at Pride Park after pneumonia.
Even though they were disappointingly flat, some of the hosts’ first-half football was good up to a point, Barry Bannan pulling strings, Kadeem Harris making good runs down the left, Josh Windass lively but needing more support. Something usually went wrong before it was time to shoot.
Forest offered little in response but this Owls team has a mistake in it, and probably always will under Moore. He likes his sides to take risks playing out from the back, making it more important they claim the reward when it gets them down the other end.
The visitors came into the game for the final 10 minutes of the first half, and ought to have made the most of it.
When Lewis Grabban beat Bannan rather too easily Sam Hutchinson cut out the cross and Ryan Yates’s shot from the loose ball was woeful.
Grabban was just unable to get onto the ball Filip Krovinovic turned across goal from Cafu’s cross and Cyrus Christie produced a weak left-footed shot.
With Forest unable to help themselves, the Owls obliged.
Westwood chipped a pass to Reach, whose header inside was risky anyway and certainly needed a meatier contact. When Anthony Knockaert latched onto it, the goalkeeper brought him down, despite his protestations.
Stretching left, Westwood made an excellent save from Grabban’s penalty with the last touch of the half.
He would come to the rescue again five minutes after the break, forcing Grabban into an angle he could only find the side-netting from after Julian Borner underhit a backpass.
Fortunately for the hosts, Tim Robinson took a benevolent view of Paterson manhandling Alex Mighten in the penalty area.
The Owls will be tempting fate if they do not tighten up in these moments on Sunday.
Although Windass was moved onto the right of a 3-4-3, Jordan Rhodes’s 55th-minute introduction gave him someone to play off and made Wednesday more potent.
Whereas in the first half, promising build-ups were breaking down, now they were resulting in chances but still not goals.
Harris’s touch let him down from Windass’s cross shortly before the substitution and Joe Worrall blocked his shot when the two forwards combined. Rhodes steered a header from the corner straight at Brice Samba.
Windass’s cross had Rhodes stretching just a little too much to head on target and when he played in his team-mate again, Christie made a good block and Reach put the rebound wide from a difficult angle.
Rhodes missed the target when Worrall played a poor ball out, and was unable to get a firm enough contact on a stoppage-time header.
Even when they got things right, Windass right behind a shot from a tight angle, Samba pulled off a very good save.
It was not to be their day. If Sunday is, it will not matter, but the Owls have left themselves no wriggle room.
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