Monday, 24 February 2014

Sheffield Wednesday 1 v Charlton Athletic 2 - FA Cup 5th Round

Monday 24th February 2014
FA Cup 5th Round
at Hillsborough
Sheffield Wednesday (0) 1
Leon Best 57
Charlton Athletic (1) 2
Callum Harriott 22
Simon Church 65
Admission £20, Programme £3, Attendance 24,607
Sheffield Wednesday
Martinez,  Palmer, Llera, Loovens, Mattock , Maguire, Gardner (Nuhiu 58), Coke, Maghom (Lavery 58), Best,  Afobe (Helan 74).
Unused Subs - Kirkland, Buxton, Onyewu, Hutchinson.
Charlton Athletic
Hamer, Wilson, Morrison, Wood (Dervite 90), Fox, Cousins, Jackson, Poyet, Harriott,  Ajdarevic (Hughes 90), Church (Ghoochanneijhad 85).
Unused Subs - Green, Sordell, Thuram-Ulien, Nego.
Stuart Gray's Owls seem to have done enough in recent weeks to pull themselves away from the relegation zone in the Championship (if they don't play like they did tonight again), but Charlton, despite having games in hand ... which are never half as good as having a few more points on the board ... are still deeply immersed in the brown sticky stuff and staring a drop into League 1 squarely in the face at the moment, despite having beaten QPR at the weekend.
In the build up to the game, the FA Cup still gave Wednesday a bit of something to possibly keep their season alive (for a short while longer at least), given that the play offs are now beyond their reach.
The Addicks, on the other hand, could probably do without the added inconvenience of the kind of fixtures backlog a cup run would create, given how they've already suffered more than most from postponements this season, due to them having such a problematic pitch at the Valley.
The prize on offer to tonight's victors, was a quarter final tie at Bramall Lane against Sheffield United, which possibly means a whole lot more to Wednesday's supporters than it does Charltons, given the intensity of the rivalry between the two 'Steel City' clubs,
According to the former Wednesday player and cult hero Carlton Palmer, who is now a co-commentator and match summariser on BBC Radio Sheffield, the cup ties against Charlton and the Blades are games that Wednesday should be able to win comfortably. Tonight just goes to show what he knows then ... not that anybody who has the best interests of either Mansfield Town or Stockport County at heart would've needed telling just how horribly wrong Mr Palmer can get things sometimes, given his disastrous managerial reigns at both of those clubs.
Maybe there might actually be some substance after all, behind the Wednesdayites tribute song to their former player: "We've got Carlton Palmer, he smokes marijuana!"
I've never pretended to like Sheffield Wednesday, not even a little bit, but each year we visit their ground (just the once), by way of tribute to Brian Sutton, an Owls fan, who is sadly no longer with us.
Since this annual event began, tragedy befell the family once more and we now raise a glass, or overpriced plastic bottle of lukewarm fizzy lager (as that was all there was on offer tonight), to the memory of Steve Oxby as well, another dearly loved friend and relative who died far too young.
Two great guys, taken from us far too soon.
Some things are more important than football rivalries and I have no problem whatsoever about visiting Swillsbo ... whoops! I meant Hillsborough, every year, to that end.
But Brian and Big Steve would've understood why, although I was paying my respects to them tonight, I wasn't exactly rooting for their team.
And I'm sure they wouldn't have wanted it any other way.
Charlton, for their part, were half decent, though nowhere near wholly decent, while Wednesday were ... hmm, well, not to put too fine a point on it, completely crap for most of the game.
The tactics that the Owls adopted in the first half, were mind boggling and embarrassing in equal measure.
Most teams who play a direct, hoof ball game, at least have a target man or a nippy runner or two in the oppositions half of the pitch when they launch the ball forwards (and skywards) at regular intervals. Wednesday had neither and their hit it and hope style, which they persisted with up until half time, became a cringeworthy spectacle and exercise in conceding possession cheaply, while offering no kind of threat to the visitors whatsoever.
Wednesday's own manager, Stuart Gray, said of the first half:
"It was the worst 45 minutes since I took over, I could not believe that was my team. I think it was 27 minutes before we got a cross, 40 minutes before we got a shot and 41 minutes before we got a tackle."
Gray went on to say, "We probably got what we deserved,"
I'd have to disagree with that last comment, because although he summed up the first half perfectly, there is no way that his side only deserved to be one goal down at the break.
When Charlton took the lead through Callum Harriott, after Astrit Ajdarevic's initial shot had deflected right into his path, there was almost an aura of inevitability already emanating from the home support sat around us in the North Stand.
"Well, you can't say it hasn't been coming!", boomed the large gentleman sat directly behind me; who seemingly couldn't even communicate candidly with the woman sat beside him without roaring at the top of his voice, in a manner becoming of an unhinged town crier.
But for once (just the once), he was 100% correct ... and those within earshot fell silent and nodded in agreement. Charlton were seeing plenty of the ball, but they just needed a bit more firepower to turn their possession into goals.
The Addicks fans up in the back of the Leppings Lane End, were having a party as they taunted the home fans with "Is this a library? Is this a library?" and "Can you hear the Wednesday sing?" type songs, which didn't even raise a flicker of response from the Hillsborough faithful.
HT - Owls 0 v Addicks 1
Maybe a 'massive' club (their words, not mine) like Sheffield Wednesday have bigger and better things to aspire to, than a run in the FA Cup, though I'm hard pushed to believe that, given their current standing.
So perhaps the truth of the matter is they just bottled it and arrogantly thought that all they had to do tonight was turn up and a place in the quarter finals was all but guaranteed either way, one thing is for sure, if they had squeaked an unlikely result against Charlton and then played like they did tonight, in the next round at Bramall Lane, their fans would've had to polish their 'Boxing Day Massacre' and 'Wembley 1993' memories one last time before putting them in storage, along with the 24,000 unworn: 'Wednesday at Wembley 2014' t-shirts that have only be made in one size ... massive!
Go on, admit it, my Owls supporting friends, associates and work colleagues, you know that made you chuckle really.
Jeez, I just admitted to being friends with some Sheffield Wednesday supporters, that is my reputation and social standing ruined ... forever.
But joking aside and getting back to my original point ... nine times out of ten, complacent teams have already contributed to their own downfall, before they've even stepped out onto the pitch, especially in cup games.
After the half time interval the game was a much better spectacle and Wednesday finally found their bearings and stopped being so wasteful whenever they had possession.
After a flying start to the second half the Owls drew level on 57 minutes, when Chris Maguire's free-kick into the area was knocked down by Miguel Llera and Leon Best fired home his first goal for the Hillsborough club since his recent arrival, on loan, from Blackburn Rovers.
It wasn't his first goal for the Owls, Best also joined Wednesday on loan from Southampton (twice) in both 2005 & 2006 and he scored once (just the once) during both of those loan spells. You stick with me my faithful reader ... I'll provide you with all of the football quiz questions you could ever need ;-)
In the 65th minute Miquel Llera was penalised for obstructing Simon Church and from Johnnie Jackson's subsequent free-kick, the former Reading forward headed beyond Martinez to put Charlton back in front.
Wednesday thought they had equalised for a second time seven minutes later when Llera's header hit the inside of the post and bounced straight into the arms of Ben Hamer, on (but not completely over) the line.
OMG! They'll let anybody in here!
Leon Best almost added a second goal for the home side, but his shot cannoned off of his team-mate Atdhe Nuhiu amidst an all hands to the pumps and frantic, goalmouth scramble.
Deep into stoppage-time, Chris Maguire's struck the ball well from the edge of the box and it appeared destined for the top corner, after taking a slight deflection, but Hamer pulled off a fantastic and acrobatic one handed save to tip the ball over.
Hamer might have been fortunate with Llera's header, when the post and (possibly) a lack of goal line camera technology had intervened, but there was no way back for the home side now and the Addicks keeper had effectively just claimed his side a place in the quarter finals of the FA Cup.
FT - Sheffield Wednesday 1 v Charlton Athletic 2
Walking along Penistone Road after the game, I bumped into a local pub bore, who just also happens to be a Wednesday fan as well: "Came to watch a big team for a change did ya!?" he snarled. "Yeah, massive mate!" I cheerily replied. However, I suspect his irony bypass operation, probably meant that my attempt at humouring him had been rather pointless.
Revised FA Cup Q/F draw following tonight's results:
Arsenal v Everton
Hull City v Sunderland
Sheffield United v Charlton Athletic
Manchester City v Wigan Athletic
Ties to be played 8-9 March