Watershed moment has Sheffield Wednesday back on track

EXACTLY six months on from a revelatory flash of inspiration, another light-bulb moment illuminated Sheffield Wednesday's Championship season on Saturday.

Gary Hooper celebrates scoring Sheffield Wednesday's second goal against Nottingham Forest

September 12 may not have been glorious for the Owls after trudging off Turf Moor with a sense of bewilderment after a 3-1 Roses defeat at Burnley, but it was an occasion when the saying: ‘There’s more to this than meets the eye,’ firmly applied.

The reaction of the 2,500 Wednesdayites in East Lancashire was telling as they applauded Carlos Carvalhal’s men off the pitch despite the club’s winless league run being extended to five games.

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Fast forward to March 12 and Carvahal’s troops were again feted by a thoroughly enthused 1,841 travelling contingent in the lower tier of Bridgford Stand at Nottingham Forest’s City Ground.

Wednesday provided something akin to an encore in terms of their Burnley performance, but this time their attacking verve brough a polished 3-0 victory – the club’s biggest league away win since October, 2012.

That watershed moment by the Trent came at a similarly key juncture with the Owls arresting a dip in form at an opportune moment.

Sometimes, skewed scorelines do not paint the whole picture as witnessed in that hugely unfortunate defeat by a two-goal margin at Burnley.

The Owls’ rewards were just down the line, with that defeat being the precursor to an intoxicating 12-match unbeaten run in all competitions which announced Wednesday’s renaissance in both the Championship and in head-turning Capital One Cup nights against Arsenal and Newcastle United.

Wednesday’s form ahead of Saturday, just as it was six months ago, was also underwhelming on the back of a five-match winless streak with the external pressure beginning to build on Carvalhal.

But just as his demeanour remained calm and composed in September ahead of the date at Burnley, so the Portuguese head coach was unflappable in the weekend build-up.

The sight of Fernando Forestieri oozing attacking menace and not giving Forest defenders any peace bore comparisons with his debut at Burnley, an afternoon when Daniel Pudil and Barry Bannan also made their bows.

Forestieri’s return after suspension at Nottingham was not the only significant development with Aiden McGeady easily producing his best performance in an Owls shirt to show he had finally ‘arrived’.

Duly acknowledging that fact, Carvalhal said: “We are persisting with him (McGeady) as we know the player and his quality. We are doing the same as with Fernando at the beginning because when he first came, he was not good.

“When Gary Hooper first came after four or five games, there were some questions about him, too. But we persisted as we knew the player and McGeady was the same.

“We create the conditions for them to show their potential and they achieve what they have inside.”

He added: “We played very serious with very good quality (at Nottingham). It is not just winning, but the way we are winning which is important.

“We are winning, playing good football and the fans enjoy the way that we play.

“We didn’t win because we shoot the (high) ball to the attack and play for the second balls or by defending well and playing counter-attack. We played good football.

“Against the situations which were not easy, we were back against Brighton and Saturday was another step.”

On paper at least, the fixture list this coming weekend looks benign for Wednesday, with the arrival of relegation-haunted Charlton representing a further opportunity for momentum to continue.

Carvalhal, as ever, remains grounded and focused, a wise philosophy given that fact that Charlton have proved spoilers before at S6. Most spectacularly, they dashed hopes of a Steel City FA Cup quarter-final tie that both sides of the Sheffield divide were hankering for in the Spring of 2014.

For the fastidious 50-year-old, controlling the controllables of preparing for opponents on an individual basis – and not concerning himself with promotion permutations – remains his modus operandi.

He said: “To me, it is not important talking about it (promotion). I don’t want to spend one second speaking about this.

“We could lose concentration so we must focus on what we must do and what is in our control, which is preparing very well to try and win games.

“I don’t want to talk about what is out of our control. I don’t care and don’t know other scores in other games.”

Wednesday yesterday failed to overturn Bannan’s red card at Forest, meaning he now misses the next three games against Charlton on Saturday, the trip to Huddersfield Town, before Blackburn Rovers’ visit to S6.