Like two drunks brawling at chucking out time, and to the amusement and embarrassment of the onlooking public, Sheffield Wednesday and Huddersfield Town’s undignified contest ended in a draw with few punches landed and little evidence that redemption for either was any closer.
The point earned by the visitors almost certainly put themselves out of reach of their hosts, who look increasingly doomed, and survival a little closer. One result aside, with Birmingham achieving an immediate new manager bounce, the midweek fixtures have been kind and Saturday’s fixtures look very tough for the majority of those below Town, who will rest up now for over 2 weeks.
Hopefully, the enforced lay off can be used to get more players fit but, just as importantly, for some reflection on how they are going to make progress next season. It is accepted that the loss of key players throughout a long winter has forced Corberán to abandon his high level principles, but the style of football and the identity for which they yearn is as far away as ever.
As ever, a promising opening spell which saw some decent approach play let down by poor decision-making faded as intensity fell away and mistakes proliferated. A vital first goal never really looked like arriving, though Holmes spurned a good opportunity set up by O’Brien, should have laid Bacuna in on another attack but delayed and Campbell opted to try and win a penalty rather than take on a first time shot with a relatively high chance of success.
The penalty shout was legitimate if a little optimistic, but may have influenced the referee waving away a much clearer shout when Rhodes was felled by Keogh later; a penalty which would have doubled Wednesday’s lead and, very likely, secured the points. Perhaps referees just have days when they don’t want to award penalties?
The denied appeal marked the end of Town’s promising opening and stagnation set in. Despite being regularly gifted possession by the Owls, the pronounced lack of movement, subsequent indecision and slow play cemented the visitors in to a pretty woeful performance.
Somewhat against the run of play, which should not be taken as an endorsement of Town’s display at the time and more an indictment of a game plunging to scruffy depths, Wednesday took the lead. Town gave up possession, Rhodes spotted an opportunity to lift the ball behind the back 3, with Pipa stranded up field, and Windass easily outpaced the wrong footed Sarr before beating Schofield at his near post.
The combination of 2 ex-Town men was galling, and another, Kachunga, almost won the game late on with a clever reverse ball which freed Paterson only for Schofield to make a good save to preserve the point. Two pieces of quality entirely out of keeping with the drab affair they momentarily enlivened.
Going behind did little to inject any urgency in to the visitors as individuals persistently failed to spark. Holmes’ energy was invariably undermined by poor execution, Bacuna was continually caught in possession and the less said of Duhaney the better. Unusually, Hogg failed to exert any real influence and perhaps Campbell’s prolonged sulk over the penalty was the reason he contributed next to nothing in a horrible first half.
Bacuna improved after the break, but only by dent of his complete anonymity preventing him making more errors which had exposed his lackadaisical approach to a game which demanded concentration and application.
A change of shape at half time saw Mbenza replace Edmonds-Green, though it was difficult to understand why Corberán persisted with Pipa on the left with the Spaniard struggling to have any influence on the game. It was crying out for Rowe to replace Duhaney and switch Pipa over to the right. An even stronger call would have been to bring on Sanogo to offer an actual threat up front.
On the hour, and after 15 minutes of ineffable dirge from both sides, the big Frenchman was finally introduced. It would be ridiculous to suggest that the Terriers’ game improved to any great extent with his introduction, but Wednesday were being asked different questions with his presence and enthusiasm.
The equaliser came, perhaps, because Town were more confident putting the ball in to the box with a tangible target available.
Mbenza curled a delivery from quite deep in to a good area and found Sarr. His effort on the stretch was well saved but hit Paterson, under pressure from Campbell, and ricocheted apologetically in to the net.
An own goal, then, has almost certainly condemned Wednesday to League 1. Ironically, their current straightened circumstances can possibly be traced back to 2017 and another own goal conceded to the same team. Town have since taken a handful of memories away before reverting to pretty much the same state, while Wednesday stare in to the black hole beneath them.
Sadly apt that this instantly forgettable game was played out to a near empty stadium – apologies if you hear any bad language echoing around – rather than a cauldron.
A brief appearance of entertainment intruded towards the end as the dozy combatants strived for a winner, with a deflected O’Brien effort coming close to winning a thoroughly undeserved 3 points, while Schofield’s save proved crucial for the visitors.
Town now need a handful of points for survival followed by an urgent need for transformation, while Wednesday’s future looks as uncertain and bleak as ever.