Only seven days before the league season starts, the Yorkshire Day derby mattered in its own right, and helped by 12,060 fans, was played that way.
Huddersfield reached the League Cup second round via a penalty shoot-out as debutant Lee Nicholls saved two of the Owls’ four kicks whilst his team-mates, culminating in O’Brien’s emphatically-thumped kick, converted theirs.
But since – spoiler alert – neither side will lift the three-handled trophy next year, it was more about what they could take from the performance.
Wednesday’s familiar back four and a Huddersfield rearguard featuring new boys Ollie Turton, Matty Pearson and Levi Colwill kept clean sheets. Town will be further strengthened by Tom Lees when he gets up to speed after a couple of months without a club to train with.
The most eye-catching performances were in midfield.
O’Brien and Scott High gave Huddersfield thrust whilst Jonathan Hogg minded the shop. If anything, O’Brien played a bit too well. The 22-year-old continues to draw admiring glances and rumours of an eight-figure bid from Elland Road. The post-Premier League evidence does not inspire confidence Huddersfield’s board will resist.
Lewis Wing, on loan from Middlesbrough, caught the eye in the hole of the Owls’ 4-2-3-1 and it was a pity his sweeping pass to Olamide Shodipo had the winger hopping to the floor with a muscle strain but the man behind him commanded most attention.
Bannan was outstanding because he usually is, but in a different way. His insatiable hunger for defensive work, setting a lead his team-mates followed, suggests even though he is far too good for the Owls’s new division, he is not about to agitate for a move out of League One.
In the 63rd minute Bannan chased energetically into the corner and tapped the ball to Sam Hutchinson who would have been well advised to welly it into row Z if only that were not so offensive to manager Darren Moore. Instead he tried to twist and turn to safety and conceded a corner Duane Holmes chipped narrowly over from.
Hutchinson made up for it in stoppage time, turning Jordan Rhodes’s goalbound header wide then – like Rhodes – opening his side’s scoring in the shoot-out.
Recently substituted with his muscles tightening, it was the only moment of defensive brilliance Bannan did not pop up in.
When Holmes forced a save from Bailey Peacock-Farrell, busier of the goalkeepers, after 67 minutes, the rebound fell nicely for Sorba Thomas until Jack Hunt appeared from nowhere for a last-ditch tackle. Bannan ran over to congratulate him in a manner reminiscent of Italy’s European Championship defenders.
“We saw the desire and togetherness,” said Moore, a former centre-back. “That was a committed performance.
“For us defenders it’s as good as scoring a goal for the attacking players, I would imagine.”
A minute later Thomas sprinted into what looked like a one-on-one until Bannan muscled into the picture and lunged into a tackle which left him injured. The crowd applauded then, when Bannan carried on after treatment, and even louder when he took his 84th-minute leave.
The possibility of Dejphon Chansiri accepting a bid cannot be discounted but the Scot who signed a new contract without a relegation clause despite last season’s looming threat had again showed his commitment. Moore called it “phenomenal”. “It was a skipper leading by example,” he gushed. Commitment, though, only gets you so far. Both sides need more goals.
Substitute Rhodes ought to have had one but when a second stoppage-time header was steered wide the jibes from fans who celebrated his goals last season were cruel: “You’ve got Jordan Rhodes!”
His coach Carlos Corberan took heart from Rhodes getting into two goalscoring positions in little more than 10 minutes, and more evidence Thomas “can make a real impact form the bench.” Danel Sinani had very little time to do likewise.
Wednesday will have Florian Kamberi to add something to their forward line once the Albanian’s international clearance comes through and need it, because with Josh Windass injured there was no plan B to the scalped Callum Paterson.
The Owls seem certain, Town likely, to add again this month but keeping the best of what they have will be important too.
Sheffield Wednesday: Peacock-Farrell; J Hunt, Iorfa, Hutchinson, Palmer; Adeniran, Bannan (Luongo 84); Green (Dele-Bashiru 75), Wing, Paterson, Shodipo (Brown 34). Unused substitutes: Adedoyin, Dunkley, Wildsmith, A Hunt.
Huddersfield Town: Nicholls; Turton, Pearson, Colwill, Toffolo; High (Sinani 89), Hogg, O’Brien; Holmes, Ward (Rhodes 81), Koroma (Thomas 58). Unused substitutes: Vallejo, Ruffels, Sarr, Schofield.
Referee: D Bond (Lancashire).