JOS LUHUKAY hauled in his shell-shocked Sheffield Wednesday players yesterday as the inquest opened over the embarrassing collapse to fellow strugglers Birmingham City.
The Owls went into the match having conceded just once in their last six games, but twice gifted the Blues a goal to trail 2-0 after just 21 minutes.
First, on eight minutes, there looked to be zero danger when Owls defender Frederico Venancio met a hopeful right-wing cross unchallenged.
But the Portuguese centre-back’s attempt to chest the ball to the approaching goalkeeper Joe Wildsmith resulted in the ball heading for the vacant goal.
Still, Venancio was favourite to clear the danger, but dallied long enough for David Davis to prod the ball home.
If that mix-up was bad, it got worse 13 minutes later, as sloppy play in Wednesday’s midfield handed possession to the impressive Jota.
I can only try change the situation now. We must change a couple of things. Tomorrow, we must speak about it, train intensively in midweek to be successful next Saturday.Sheffield Wednesday boss, Jos Luhukay
His dipping shot looked easy pickings for Wildsmith – standing in for the injured Keiren Westwood – but the ball squirmed out of his grasp and into the goal, in front of a stunned Kop.
Marco Matias was red-carded – somewhat harshly by referee Scott Duncan after an off-the-ball incident with Cohen Bramall – before Jota tapped home a third goal in first-half stoppage time.
Portugues international Lucas Joao threatened an unlikely comeback with a solo goal, on 54 minutes, but Wednesday played out the final 20 minutes with nine men after Daniel Pudil was sent off for two yellow cards.
It was the first defeat for Dutchman Luhukay since taking charge at Hillsborough and he called in his players yesterday to discuss what went wrong.
“Today was not our day,” he said. “When we analyse the two goals, I think it was communication between Joe and Frederico (for the first goal).
“For the second goal, this can happen to a goalkeeper. Joe has played fantastic games in recent weeks, but this is the life of a young goalkeeper.
“It’s not a normal game for us. I have been in football a long time and what we saw in the first half is, hopefully, not what we will see in the future.
“We must speak tomorrow (Sunday) about the goals we conceded and, of course, the two red cards.
“It’s very difficult in a game to come to a successful situation when you have these moments.
“When you lose two goals like that, you lose your confidence. When that happened between the goalkeeper and defender, maybe for the second goal, Joe was thinking about what happened with the first goal.
“The first two goals are not tactical problems, they are mistakes which we made.”
Refreshingly, Luhukay refused to use the two red cards as a smokescreen for his team’s poor defensive display.
But there did seem some confusion over why Matias was sent off.
He chased a long ball, and there seemed little contact between him and Bramall, but after consulting his linesman – who had not flagged – Duncan whipped out a red card for the Owls striker.
“I haven’t spoken to the referee about Marcus,” said Luhukay. “I saw the referee go to the linesman, so I don’t know what the exact reason was. But I must respect that, and accept it.
“We will talk with our players, Marco, of course, and also with Daniel.
“Marco was totally disappointed at half-time, he was not on speaking terms. He was in shock that he had received the red card.
“So I let him rest. Tomorrow I will speak to him, about the situation, and what exactly happened.”
The Owls also had a second-half penalty appeal rejected by Duncan, which could have made it 3-2, and set up an interesting final third.
Luhukay explained: “We had a situation with Lucas when he went inside the area, it was maybe a penalty, but the referee decided it was outside. That was maybe a moment when we could have got back in the game.
“But we must look to ourselves. We made the mistakes in the first half, and we had two red cards.
“Tomorrow (Sunday) we will speak to the players, analyse what went wrong, and have a new view for the game at Barnsley.”
Wednesday are just seven points off the bottom three in the Championship, and face a crunch trip to neighbours Barnsley on Saturday.
With just one Championship win – at Nottingham Forest on Boxing Day – from their last 14 outings, the pressure on the Owls manager to produce his first league win since arriving at Hillsborough last month is mounting.
“I can not do anything about the past,” said Luhukay.
“I can only try change the situation now. We must change a couple of things. Tomorrow, we must speak about it, train intensively in midweek to be successful next Saturday.
“The team don’t have a mental problem, they are working hard, have played a couple of good games, and the trust was there.
“But today, what could go wrong, went wrong. You cannot get back in the game when you make those mistakes.”
Sheffield Wednesday: Wildsmith, Palmer, Venancio, Loovens (Joao 26), Pudil, Fox, Butterfield (Thorniley 71), Pelupessy, Reach, Matias, Nuhiu (Boyd 73). Unused substitutes: Dawson, Hunt, Jones, Wallace.
Birmingham City: Stockdale, Colin, Roberts, Dean, Grounds (Bramall), Ndoye, Kieftenbeld (Gardner 75), Jota, Davis (Lowe 84), Boga, Gallagher. Unused substitutes: Trueman, Morrison, Adams, Jutkiewicz.
Referee: S Duncan (Newcastle).