Pride and frustration for Sheffield Wednesday manager Garry Monk

As he spoke after Sheffield Wednesday’s defeat, a word manager Garry Monk did not mean to use accidentally slipped out.
Spot on: Owls striker Steven Fletcher converts his penalty to equalise. Picture: Steve EllisSpot on: Owls striker Steven Fletcher converts his penalty to equalise. Picture: Steve Ellis
Spot on: Owls striker Steven Fletcher converts his penalty to equalise. Picture: Steve Ellis

He quickly apologised and no harm was done, but it showed how easily mistakes can happen.

On the field as well as off it, the Owls feels they are being harshly punished at the moment. Their results say two points from the last four matches, their performances say something more encouraging.

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“It was a near-on perfect performance,” insisted Monk. “But we weren’t clinical enough and we made a mistake.”

You could understand Monk’s pride in his team’s display, and why he was keen to hammer it home. It was a message directed to his own dressing room, one that could be dispirited by recent results.

But luck and ability often get confused in football. The best teams make the fewest mistakes, and are the most ruthless when others slip up – that is why they come across as the most fortunate. Saturday’s winners West Bromwich are certainly one of the best teams in the Championship, setting high bars for the likes of Leeds United, not always in their dominance of games or their beautiful football, sometimes in terms of how clinical they are.

Their manager, Slaven Bilic, waxed lyrical at full-time about the Owls, whose mixture of aggression and ability is right up the former Croatia centre-back’s street. “They are on the front foot, they are aggressive, they engage, they don’t have kids – not age, but mentality – they are physical with enough quality,” he said.

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But at this early stage of Monk’s management, they are not quite in the Championship’s top tier, rather the pack hunting promotion via the play-offs. In the last three games, they have conceded four goals after the 87th minute. Charlie Austin’s winning penalty on Saturday came after 89.

For much of the second half, it looked like Wednesday might take a point against the leaders but when they failed to deal with a long ball, goalkeeper Kieren Westwood raced off his line and cleared out Matheus Pereira. Austin slammed in the penalty, and the visitors went home as losers.

They deserved better. Winger Kadeem Harris apart, it seemed to do undue harm to their confidence when Bilic’s slick side sliced them open in the 10th minute.

The Owls had started well, hitting the post direct from Barry Bannan’s corner, but made it too easy for their hosts to take the lead, Pereira given time on the ball to expertly thread a pass, Hal Robson-Kanu left to run behind the defence and put the ball between Westwood’s legs.

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But the Owls came out reinvigorated for the second half – Harris apart, strangely . With their hosts looking complacent at one end and wasteful at the other, they could have had more than Steven Fletcher’s equaliser.

Pereira and Filip Krovinovic were pinging the ball around beautifully in West Brom’s fluid midfield – chipped passes by the former either side of half-time were exquisite – but maybe they believed it was too easy.

When Sam Johnstone took half an eye off Jacob Murphy’s 48-minute cross, only centre-back Ahmed Hegazi reacted to the spill – another fine margin.

After 58 minutes, Krovinovic tried to take more time than he had with his back to goal, and resorted to the desperate measure of pulling down Kieran Lee. Fletcher drove the penalty down the middle as Johnstone dived left.

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It was fitting reward for the Owls, who then hit the bar when Morgan Fox volleyed Adam Reach’s free-kick. West Brom overplayed from the restart, and served up a good chance for Lee, only for Hegazi to throw himself in the way.

Robson-Kanu had just missed two good chances, putting one cross off target under pressure, and narrowly failing to get to another as Fletcher had with an early centre by Harris. So Bilic turned to his formidable bench and summoned Austin and Gareth Barry and Chris Brunt. Striker Austin’s bleached-blond head diverted a cross against the post before Westwood’s recklessness presented him with the chance to win the game.

All day the Owls had been more physical, West Brom fancier, but the visitors overstepped in stoppage time, Liam Palmer’s wild tackle on Grady Diangana getting the straight red card it deserved.

“We’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing and cut out silly mistakes,” reflected Monk. “It’s nothing to do with tactics or anything like that. But, unfortunately, we’re human beings, sometimes we make mistakes.

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“It’s very weird. I’ve not had it so often being stood here that in such a short period of time where I’ve been so proud of the performances but so deflated and a bit frustrated that we haven’t got the result we deserve. It’s quite normal to have five or six (costly late goals) throughout a season but we’ve had a run of three games where that’s happened.

“We’ve got a capable team and if those margins turn for us – which they will do, it can’t continue to go against us like that – we’ve got an opportunity to have some very good moments.”

Wednesday night against Monk’s old club Birmingham City would be a sweet place to start.

West Bromwich Albion: Johnstone; Furlong, Bartley Hegazi (Barry 78) Townsend; Ajayi; Phillips, Krovinovic (Brunt 81), Pereira, Diangana; Robson-Kanu (Austin 78). Unused substitutes: Gibbs, Zohore, Edwards, Bond.

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Sheffield Wednesday: Westwood; Palmer, Iorfa, Borner, Fox; Murphy, Lee (Luongo 70), Hutchinson, Bannan, Harris (Reach 60); Fletcher. Unused substitutes: Lees, Nuhiu,Odubajo, Dawson, Forestieri.

Referee: T Harrington (Cleveland).