Sheffield Wednesday suffer the latest in a long line of ‘what if’ moments

There were moments to reminisce for Sheffield Wednesday fans amidst the darkening clouds over Hillsborough on Saturday.

Callum Paterson netted Sheffield Wednesday's equaliser against Oxford United. Picture: Steve Ellis
Callum Paterson netted Sheffield Wednesday's equaliser against Oxford United. Picture: Steve Ellis

An emotional sixth-minute tribute saw three sides of this famous old stadium rise to applaud club legend Jose Semedo, whose wife Soraia tragically died last week.

Portuguese Semedo, 36, was one of those club stalwarts whose popularity exceeded their skill level, and remains a revered figure at S6 – 10 years after helping the Owls gain promotion from League One.

Now, of course, after a couple of near misses in attempting to reach the Premier League, Wednesday are back languishing in the third tier of English football.

So thoughts gladly wondered off to Wembley – and the Championship play-off final in 2016 –when another former Owl, Daniel Pudil appeared on the touchline for the half-time draw with the hosts deservedly trailing 1-0 to Oxford United.

The Czech Republic left-back was part of the Wednesday team which lost to Hull City at Wembley, a game which has fuelled many ‘what if’ moments over the last five years.

Pudil would have winced at the way the current Owls left-back Marvin Johnson – playing devil’s advocate he is more of a winger than defender – was caught in possession, allowing Cameron Brannagan to drive forward and beat Bailey Peacock-Farrell at his near post after just 12 minutes.

The on-loan Burnley goalkeeper got his glove to the ball, and following crucial mistakes which cost victory against Shrewsbury Town and Ipswich Town, this was another poor error.

After beating then leaders Wigan Athletic in midweek, Wednesday were second-best during the opening 45 minutes.

Sam Long could, and should, have done better but blasted a volley into the Kop.

The best Wednesday could muster was a Barry Bannan long-range effort which Jack Stevens tipped over the crossbar, while Callum Paterson dragged his shot wide.

Bannan – a former team-mate of both Semedo and Pudil – is a conundrum for manager Darren Moore.

The ball-playing midfielder has yet to find a settled role in Moore’s team. He was parked wide right, in a 4-2-3-1 formation on Saturday, a throwback to the Carlos Carvalhal years when he played in a midfield quartet.

The only surprise was that it took Moore until half-time to recognise he had round pegs in square holes and switch Bannan with the more energetic Dennis Adeniran, who had been assigned a holding role in front of the back four.

Bannan splits opinion amongst Wednesday supporters. Without him at Wigan, the Owls were more mobile in midfield, and there is a feeling that Wednesday are too reliant on the former Scotland international. In possession, the ball always seems to end up at Bannan’s feet with the Owls almost waiting expectantly for another piece of magic.

But Bannan remains the most gifted player in Wednesday’s ranks, and Moore must find a way to harness his obvious talents while asking for his team-mates to take on more responsibility, providing the runs and legs.

With the introduction of Saido Berhahino from the bench, Wednesday turned in a much-improved second half.

Although Peacock-Farrell atoned for his earlier error – to be fair the goalkeeper has mistakes in his locker, otherwise he would be playing for Burnley’s first team in the Premier League rather than League One football – when he produced a superb save to deny Matty Taylor from close-range.

Bannan, looking more comfortable in the engine room of Wednesday’s midfield, conjured up a chance for Berahino, but the forward’s header from a teasing cross smashed against the post.

Wednesday’s equaliser came as Bannan and Johnson combined down the left, and the latter’s cross was headed in by forward Paterson.

But in stoppage-time, Oxford snatched a late winner.

Long’s cross found substitute James Henry, who somehow beat two Owls defenders to create space to hook the ball beyond Peacock-Farrell.

Stevens then tipped a 30-yard drive from Bannan onto the crossbar, but Wednesday’s unbeaten home record in League One had come to an end.

Defeat leaves the Owls marooned 12th in the table, after the opening 10 league games.

They have won four, drawn three and lost three.

“We want to win, I am not making any excuse at all, we want to win games,” said a frustrated Moore, who questioned whether the Owls showed fatigue after coming off the back of two away trips last week to Ipswich and Wigan.

“The facts are we have new players in, we signed 15 new players, but we are working every single week.

“It’s disappointing to lose, our first game at home, we were proud of that record but it’s gone now.”

Sheffield Wednesday: Peacock-Farrell, Palmer, Iorfa, Dunkley, Johnson, Adeniran, Wing (Dele-Bashiru 67), Bannan, Paterson, Shodipo (Sow 61), Gregory (Berahino 46). Unused substitutes: Brown, Corbeanu, Wildsmith, Hunt.

Oxford United: Stevens, Long, Moore, Thorniley, Seddon, Kane (Henry 59), Gorrin, Brannagan, Forde (Williams 84), Taylor (Agyei 70), Holland. Unused substitutes: Eastwood, Mousinho, McNally, Cooper.

Referee: A Haines (Tyne & Wear).