Sheffield Wednesday 0 Millwall 0: Owls hoping new transfer window recruits can end goal drought
The long-term investment –“the most unique package in the club’s history” claim the Owls – guarantees fans a seat at one of the country’s famous old stadiums.
But if value for money equates to goals scored, then it is going to take all of the club’s marketing skills to persuade supporters to part with their hard-earned cash with those tickets priced from £4,550 to £6,400.
The Owls have netted just 14 goals in 15 games at Hillsborough this season following a drab 0-0 stalemate with Millwall on Saturday. Fifteen shots, but just two on target all afternoon told its own sorry story.
No other team in the Championship has scored fewer goals on home turf.
At least Saturday’s point ended a run of three consecutive Hillsborough defeats – including a humiliating 5-0 reverse last time out against Blackburn Rovers – but Wednesday have gone three home games without a goal.
Without injured top-scorer Steven Fletcher until next month, Owls manager Garry Monk acted last week by signing three attacking players in Alessio Da Cruz, Josh Windass and Connor Wickham.
The latter two should make their debuts in Saturday’s trip to Barnsley, but Dutch striker Da Cruz did make a promising cameo as a second-half substitute against the Lions.
On loan from Italian club Parma, the 23-year-old linked well with fellow substitute Fernando Forestieri – making his return from a long injury lay-off – and injected some much-needed attacking zest and urgency to the Owls’ play. Before the duo stepped off the bench, the closest Wednesday had gone to a goal was when Adam Reach headed wide Kadeem Harris’s cross from close range.
While the Owls failed to find the net – Forestieri forced Bartosz Bialkowski into a routine save – the second-half was an improvement on an opening 45 minutes where lone striker Atdhe Nuhiu was left isolated and a frustrated figure.
“I thought we were much better in the second half and the two substitutes made a real impact,” said Monk.
“They both looked very lively, playing with pace and purpose, they changed the tempo of the game.
“All you can ask of your substitutes is to have an impact and they did.
“It’s good to have Fernando back, he’s not 100 per cent, that comes with game-time but we all know what he is capable of.
“With Alessio, he’s fitted well into the group, he’s quick, he’s sharp and lively and gives us something different.
“He will get better and better I’m sure and like Connor and Josh, I was delighted to get him over the line in the window.”
Pushing forward in search of a second-half goal, Wednesday did leave gaps at the back and they had a couple of lucky escapes.
First, three Millwall players raced clear as they caught the Owls in possession, but centre-half Dominic Iorfa scampered back to lunge in and steal the ball off Jon Dadi Bodvarsson.
Then, in stoppage-time, Bodvarsson again found himself clear of the home defence in acres of space, but with just Cameron Dawson to beat, his attempted chip sailed high and wide into a relieved Kop.
“After the last few games, getting a point is okay, it was deserved,” said Owls defender Julian Borner. “At home, we want to win every game. But a point is good after the last game at home (5-0 loss to Blackburn). We had a lot of chances and kept a clean sheet, which for the defence is important.
“Our next game is at Barnsley, and I hope we can win there. For defenders, it’s always important to keep a clean sheet. When you concede goals, it is painful, so I am really happy today with a clean sheet, for the team and myself.
“We know we can play good football, but it’s about mentality, and today is a start for the future.
“We need more points at home, that is clear. The dressing room is really good. The last few weeks we have been disappointing. That is normal.
“But today, when you believe, you know what you can do. Some of the previous games were really good, like Brighton and Leeds, and we must get that mentality back to win every fight and every game.”
The point leaves the Owls 11th in the Championship – seven points adrift of the play-offs – after a miserable month which saw them sit third before Christmas.
German defender Borner is not one to panic, though.
“I am 29 years old and nothing in football surprises me,” he said.
“I don’t know the reason, but every game in the Championship is difficult.
“We must show a high concentration going forward.”
With back-to-back away games at the Championship’s bottom two to come – Barnsley and Luton – the Owls must swiftly find their scoring boots if they are to keep their promotion dream alive.
Sheffield Wednesday: Dawson, Palmer, Borner, Iorfa, Odubajo, Harris (Forestieri 56), Pelupessy, Bannan, Murphy (Da Cruz 67), Reach, Nuhiu. Unused substitutes: Wildsmith, Winnall, Lees, Hunt, Urhoghide.
Millwall: Bialkowski, Romeo, Cooper, Hutchinson, M Wallace, J Wallace, Williams, Woods, Ferguson (Mahoney 61), Smith (Bodvarsson 61), Bradshaw (Molumby 79). Unused substitutes: Steele, Pearce, O’Brien Skalak.
Referee: D Coote (Notts).