Daniel Pudil is arguably the biggest benefactor under the new regime of Jos Luhukay at Sheffield Wednesday.
The Czech Republic international left-back – in and out of the team due to injuries and form before Christmas under Carlos Carvalhal – has blossomed in his new role at centre-back in a three-man back line.
The 32-year-old was a deserved man-of-the-match in Saturday’s stalemate to deny Carvalhal a winning return to Hillsborough with Premier League Swansea City.
While most of the headlines since Dutchman Luhukay’s arrival last month have been about the promotion of Academy youngsters into first-team roles, Pudil has quietly grown into his new position.
He kept Chelsea loanee Tammy Abraham – who netted three times against the Owls last season in Bristol City’s colours – quiet throughout, forcing Carvalhal to replace the striker on 67 minutes.
Of Pudil’s seven games under Luhukay, five have delivered clean sheets.
We have Joe Wildsmith and Cameron Dawson. Joe, in all the time I have been here, has been fantastic in the Championship. Cameron has been fantastic in the FA Cup.Jos Luhukay
“It was important to keep a clean sheet,” he said. “I think everyone can see we are doing much better and our confidence is increasing.
“We tried to play football. I thought we were the better side and deserved to win.
“We didn’t create so many clear-cut chances but I thought it was a brilliant game over the 90 minutes. I think the fans enjoyed the performance. They helped us a lot so it was an encouraging day.”
In a game of few clear-cut chances, Wednesday’s Adam Reach probably had their best opportunities to break the deadlock.
Inside the first two minutes, he raced clear with only goalkeeper Kristoffer Nordfeldt to beat but the Swans stopper managed to divert Reach’s effort for a corner.
In stoppage time, Reach once again found himself in space on the right, but opted to cross instead of going for goal, and substitute Lucas Joao’s back-heel was scrambled away.
In between, Swansea’s best effort brought a stunning save from Cameron Dawson – the Owls’ third-choice goalkeeper after Keiren Westwood (injured) and Joe Wildsmith (rested).
With 37 minutes gone, Mike van der Hoorn found himself unmarked six yards out in front of goal.
His firm header looked a certain goal but Dawson, 22, instinctively jabbed up his left arm to palm the ball over the crossbar.
“It was a great save by Cammy,” said Pudil. “Both he and Joe are doing well. They always make one or two brilliant saves in games. They are brilliant keepers.”
The experienced Luhukay, 54, went even further in his praise of Academy youngsters Wildsmith and Dawson.
The Owls manager said: “I have been in football a long time, but in all my time I have not had two young goalkeepers like we have.
“We have Joe Wildsmith and Cameron Dawson. Joe, in all the time I have been here, has been fantastic in the Championship. Cameron has been fantastic in the FA Cup.
“They are so good, and they are both only 22 years old. I am very proud of these boys.”
Carvalhal brought Nathan Dyer and Jordan Ayew into the attack in the second half, and they certainly brought more creative threat to the Swans, but neither side could prevent a replay in Wales next week.
First, though, the Owls have two Championship games – at Millwall tomorrow night, before Saturday’s visit of Aston Villa.
The prize awaiting the winners is a home tie against either Rochdale or Tottenham Hotspur in the quarter-finals.
“We have nothing to lose (in the replay),” said Pudil. “I think we did well and we showed them today we are a good team and can play good football. I think the pressure is on Swansea, not on us. But first we have to take care of the league and then we can go for the FA Cup.
“We would like to go as far as we can but the league is the main thing right now. We will focus on the league and try to beat Millwall and Aston Villa and then we can concentrate on the FA Cup. We have a couple of days to get ready. It’s not much time to rest. We know how tough everyone is in the Championship so we will recover now and get ready for Millwall.
“In our situation, it is always about confidence. I think our confidence was a little bit low a few weeks ago.
“I think since the new manager came in, we said: ‘Look, first we have to have the clean sheets and then we can go for the win’.
“We have built our confidence. We beat Derby and that was a great game. Confidence is going higher every single game and now we have to go for the win on Tuesday. The fans have enjoyed our football in the last two or three games. Let’s keep on going and go to Millwall to try to bring the three points back.”
Carvalhal – on his first return to Hillsborough, eight weeks after leaving the Championship strugglers – was given a warm welcome back by Owls fans.
He was cheered off the Swans team coach, and handed a standing ovation on the pitch at the end.
Sheffield Wednesday: Dawson, Hunt, Pudil, Venancio, Fox, Boyd, Jones, Reach, Butterfield (Pelupessy 70), Wallace (Joao 80), Nuhiu. Unused substitutes: Wildsmith, Baker, Kirby, Nielsen, Loovens.
Swansea City: Nordfeldt, Naughton, Bartley, van der Hoorn, Roberts, Ki Sung-Yueng, Carroll, Olsson (Clucas 79), Narsingh (Dyer 64), Abraham (Ayew 67), Routledge. Unused substitutes: Mulder, Fernandez, Maric, James.
Referee: P Tierney (Salford).