With one specialist centre-back, two centre-forwards, a wide attacker, an out-and-out winger and whatever you want to class the versatile Callum Paterson as, the gaggle of players on the team-sheet did not look like a 3-5-2 to those uninitiated in the ways of Darren Moore. Perhaps the most surprising choice of the lot was for Canadian forward Theo Corbeanu to be making his debut at left wing-back.
“What is he doing?” groaned more than one Wednesdayite at the sort of team selection that has been infuriating them recently. By the time Corbeanu trooped off, three sides of the ground were on their feet chanting “Theo! Theo!”
He scored the first goal and made the second in a 3-0 win that could have been more had they not settled for it in the final half-hour. Conserving energy is important in this day and age.
When things went right for them, they went very right, and when they went wrong, they still ended up going right.
Catching Sunderland when they did played into the Owls’ hands, but they capitalised. By thumping the Wearsiders 5-1 at the weekend, Rotherham United could easily have set up a backlash but instead they sucked confidence out of the visitors. Wednesday, on the back of four straight draws, picked it up.
The begloved Florian Kamberi’s ninth-minute snapshot wide on only his third League One start for the club was a sign the hosts were not feeling sorry for themselves.
Within a couple of minutes, his team led, Lee Gregory squaring for Corbeanu, coming in on his right foot, to steer a low curling shot inside the far post. Terraces that have echoed to too many boos lately roared encouragement.
A one-goal lead, though, is not enough when you are as fragile as Wednesday, especially from set pieces. They pushed on.
Barry Bannan squared for winger Marvin Johnson, again on the left of a back three, to let fly from around 30 yards.
It was not just going forward that they looked positive and hungry. Chey Dunkley relished being the only bona fide centre-back, throwing himself heroically in front of an Aiden O’Brien shot.
Johnson showed he could do it too with a great interception. The Owls never got it clear, but when Dan Neil put the ball in the net, the linesman raised his flag to loud cheers. At that stage, 33 minutes in, the outcome was set in stone, although Wednesdayites had seen their team too often to believe it.
The second goal six minutes before half-time was therefore huge. Kamberi got too faint a header on right wing-back Callum Paterson’s cross but Corbeanu played it back in and although the striker made a hash of it at, first, Sunderland gave him sufficient space to bundle it in.
When Ross Stewart completely missed from close in after Bailey Peacock-Farrell’s save from Tom Flanagan there would have been some resigned nods in the away end.
The start of the second half only confirmed it, Dunkley blocking for O’Brien and Kamberi getting back and sliding in to cut out a cross near the corner flag.
Paterson completely shanked a shot and Gregory opportunistically pounced for a third goal in the 54th minute.
Wednesday fans could enjoy a weird experience at Hillsborough which rumour had it was enjoyment, loudly cheering a Lewis Wing hoof clear, revelling in Kamberi robbing Callum Doyle near the byline and putting him on his backside, only to be denied from a tight angle, and loving former Huddersfield Town midfielder Alex Pritchard’s feeble free-kick straight at Peacock-Farrell.
Recently we have been begging to know just what Wednesday are. If this can be the answer, that will do nicely.
Sheffield Wednesday: Peacock-Farrell; Palmer, Dunkley, Johnson; Paterson, Adeniran, Wing, Bannan (Dele-Bashiru 67), Corbeanu (Brown 82); Kamberi, Gregory (Berahino 84). Unused substitutes: Wildsmith, Hunt, Shodipo, Sow.
Sunderland: Hoffman; Winchester, Flanagan, Doyle, Cirkin; Evans, O’Nien; Gooch (Embleton 72), Neil (Pritchard 65), O’Brien (Broadhead 82); Stewart. Unused substitutes: Burge, Alves, Dajaku, Wright.
Referee: C Hicks (Surrey).