Sheffield Wednesday's resources make difference against Rotherham United but not on Championship relegation picture

An hour into Saturday's South Yorkshire derby, Sheffield Wednesday needed something different.

Thanks partly to a mistaken offside flag and the usual Viktor Johansson saves but more because of the Owls' lack of ruthlessness, Rotherham United were unscathed after a first-half battering and showing signs of improvement. Sam Nombe even doubled their shot tally, firing just over.

So Danny Rohl turned to his nine-man bench and picked out a targetman – former Miller Michael Smith – who would allow Ike Ugbo to arrive from deeper, and a right-back (Dominic Iorfa) and winger (Djeidi Gassama) to continue getting to the byline and pulling the ball back, but from a formation changed to 4-2-3-1.

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Within minutes Iorfa had a header saved and after two more he teed Ugbo up for the game’s only goal.

Later, Rohl locked the door, introducing Bambo Diaby.

What Leam Richardson would give for options like that.

As soon as Ugbo scored he also made a triple substitution, but from only five outfield options. It was Cafu’s corner a further sub, Arvin Appiah, nearly scored from, but neither they nor Jordan Hugill and Charlie Wyke could change the game.

With Richardson putting Sean Morrison's pre-match calf injury down to "heavy" Roundwood pitches, he kicked off with only seven substitutes and two specialist centre-halves for his back three.

DECISIVE: Sheffield Wednesday goalscorer Ike UgboDECISIVE: Sheffield Wednesday goalscorer Ike Ugbo
DECISIVE: Sheffield Wednesday goalscorer Ike Ugbo

So Sod's Law dictated Ugbo fell on Lee Peltier's ankle/tibia/fibia – Richardson was unsure which straight after the game – late in the first half and when he came off early in the second, wing-back Peter Kioso had to join central midfielder Hakeem Odoffin in central defence.

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"We're very 'fix and mend,’" said Richardson more than once.

At least moving midfielder Andy Rinomhota worked – were it not for Barry Bannan's goalline clearance, the makeshift wing-back would have scored in the 80th minute.

That it came down to such tight margins – Akin Famewo's disallowed goal, Rohl's substitutions, Ugbo's strike, Bannan's heroics and Owls substitute Mallik Wilks heading against a post in stoppage time – was a straw for the Millers to grasp. Richardson was not interested.

CHANGES: Sheffield Wednesday manager Danny RohlCHANGES: Sheffield Wednesday manager Danny Rohl
CHANGES: Sheffield Wednesday manager Danny Rohl

"I don't really do morale victories," he said. "People can say, 'You've done well,' but it doesn't really wash."

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The first half showed what the Millers are up against, the narrow outcome what the Owls must still do. At 1-0, Wednesday never went for the throat but neither did the kitchen sink come at them.

After saving Iorfa's header, Johansson bowled the ball to Nombe, who ran deep into enemy territory then shuttled the ball back like a burglar approaching a house, then seeing a Rottweiler on the doorstep.

INJURY: Rotherham United centre-back Lee PeltierINJURY: Rotherham United centre-back Lee Peltier
INJURY: Rotherham United centre-back Lee Peltier

During wave after wave of first-half attacks as Ian Poveda and Anthony Musaba got into crossing positions and wing-backs Pol Valentin and Marvin Johnson played more like inside-forwards, you had to remind yourself this was not top versus bottom, but 23rd against 24th.

Wednesday, masters of mismanagement and experts in shooting themselves in the foot, are a long way from their neighbours yet trail the rest even after four wins in five.

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Had the season started when they did, on November 29, they would be in the final play-off place, albeit from a game more than most. But it did not and 17 matches where half their points came at home to an anaemic Rotherham is a heck of a headstart.

It seems odd to say a team whose centre-forward now has six goals in five games is not clinical enough, but that was Saturday's conclusion.

They can point to Famewo wrongly being flagged offside but if you rely on Championship officials to get every decision right, you really are one of life's optimists.

At least both sides have spirit, as Bannan's clearance and a crucial stoppage-time header at another Cafu corner showed 2,100 away fans.

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"At the moment we can talk about nearly every player," said Rohl when invited to praise’s Bannan desire.

Add in skillful build-up and Ugbo's goals and you would think they would be above the dotted line now.

Likewise, many a bottom-placed team would have crumbled at 1-0.

Rotherham need to spend their meagre resources better – on more robust players, better medical and scientific back-up, and training pitches which do not cause injuries – but their precious spirit must not be lost in the cultural revolution Richardson is plotting.

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With as many handicaps as the Millers, you have to make full use of everything you have.

Rotherham United: Johansson; Odoffin, Peltier (Lindsay 53), Humphreys; Tiehi; Kioso, Rinomhota, Clucas (Appiah 81), Ferguson (Cafu 67); Eaves (Hugill 67), Nombe (Wyke 67). Unused substitutes: Phillips, Seriki.

Sheffield Wednesday: Beadle; Palmer, Ihiekwe, Famewo; Valentín (Iorfa 63), Vaulks (Smith 63), Bannan, Johnson; Poveda (Gassama 63), Ugbo (Wilks 90+1), Musaba (B Diaby 80). Unused substitutes: Dawson, James, Cadamarteri, Diaby.

Referee: D Webb (County Durham)

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