Saturday, 3 February 2018

Sheffield Wednesday 1 v Birmingham City 3 - EFL Championship

Saturday 3rd February 2018
SkyBet EFL Championship
at Hillsborough Stadium
Sheffield Wednesday (0) 1
Lucas João 54
Birmingham City (3) 3
David Davis 8, Jota 21, 45+4
Attendance 25,648
Following on from their draw at Premier League side Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup last weekend, Birmingham moved out of the bottom three on Tuesday night, by virtue of a three-one home win against Sunderland, with David Davis, Jeremie Boga and Sam Gallagher all weighing in with a goal apiece, while Bryan Oviedo scored a late consolation for the Black Cats.
At the same time, Wednesday were creeping up one place in the table to sixteenth, following their goalless draw against Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium.
Last night's 1-0 win for Bolton Wanderers against promotion chasing Bristol City, saw them move up nineteenth in the Championship, nudging Barnsley, Birmingham and Hull down one place apiece, subsequently Steve Cotterill's Blues started today sitting in twenty first place. Though today's visitors have thrown together a decent run of results, the sides around them in the relegation zone have been picking up points of late too, but at least they have been keeping themselves in touch with the survival battle and after this afternoon's lively encounter, the visitors took another stride in the right direction. As the old saying goes: you've got to be in it, to err... win it!
Prior to today, the new(ish) Wednesday boss: Jos Luhukay, has seen his side draw 0-0 in all three of their Championship games since his appointment last month, but the Owls have actually failed to find the net in five successive Championship games, last scoring against Nottingham Forest back in December, a barren run in front of goal in league games, that had lasted 475 minutes as of 3pm today, although in the meantime, they have also won two FA Cup fixtures at Hillsborough, against Carlisle United, in a replay, and Reading respectively.
As a consequence of reaching the FA Cup fifth round, Luhukay's side will face the winners of this weeks replay between Swansea City and Notts County, at Hillsborough... and whoever takes the spoils when Huddersfield visit St. Andrew's on Tuesday night for a fourth round replay, will face Manchester United at home in the next round.
Both games will be televised live by BT Sport on Saturday 17th February, with the former kicking off at 12.30pm and the latter at 5.30pm.
Before I move on to this afternoon's main event; I was wondering if any of you knowledgeable readers could be so kind as to demystify me and indulge my natural curiosity.
Does anybody know why two gold coloured elephants have recently appeared at either side of the main entrance to Hillsborough Stadium?
A pair of Owls I could understand, and possibly even effigies of certain farmyard animals left there in jest by supporters of Wednesday's city rivals United; but gold elephants... what on earth is that all about?
Sheffield Wednesday:
John Wildsmith, Fredrico Venancio, Glenn Loovens (C) (Lucas Joao 26), Daniel Pudil, Liam Palmer, Jacob Butterfield (Jordan Thorniley 71), Joey Pelupessy, Adam Reach, Morgan Fox, Marco Matias, Atdhe Nuhiu (George Boyd 72).
Unused subs - Cameron Dawson, Jack Hunt, David Jones, Ross Wallace
Birmingham City:
David Stockdale, Maxime Colin, Marc Roberts, Harlee Dean (C), Jonathan Grounds (Cohen Bramall 33), Maikel Kieftenbeld (Craig Gardner 75), David Davis (Jason Lowe 84), Cheikh Ndoye, Jota, Jeremie Boga, Sam Gallagher
Unused subs - Connal Trueman, Michael Morrison, Jason Lowe, Che Adams, Lukas Jutkiewicz.
This was a massive win for Blues and a complete shambles for the Owls, the best team won, but there is no doubt that the home side contributed massively to their own downfall and with only a little over twenty minutes on the clock, the away end of the ground was already reverberating to the sound of "Can we play you every week!?"
Come five o'clock this afternoon, there were only three points separating these two sides in the Championship table.
There is still a 'long, long road' ahead for Steve Cotterill's side this season, who need to maintain the consistency, built on an ethic of hard work, that they have found of late, but they weren't the only team at Hillsborough this afternoon, who need to start getting a few more points under their belts as a matter of growing urgency.
The game was effectively over as a contest by half time as the visitors strolled into a three goal lead, while the Owls offered little in the way of resistance, but indulged in a preposterously large amount of contributory negligence instead.
The opening goal came in the eighth minute, when Maxime Colin did well out on the right touchline before sending a wayward cross into the Wednesday area that evaded Sam Gallacher. Joe Wildsmith came off of his line to collect the ball while Frederico Venancio ran back towards him, attempting to block off the run of David Davis... who, in actual fact kept running and rolled the ball into the (wide) open goal, as Venancio inexplicably chested the ball past his advancing keeper to set up the simplest of chances for Davis.
Jota, Davis, Gallagher and Jeremie Boga had seemingly been granted the 'Freedom of Sheffield' as they exercised their 'right to roam' in  circles around and out of sorts, unstable and increasingly vulnerable looking home defence.
Wildsmith threw the ball out from his area, but hit the heels of Daniel Pudil, which allowed Jota to run at the shaky defence, but his shot was blocked and Wednesday were spared another embarrassing moment.
But the next blunder wasn't very far away and in the twenty fifth minute, Davis rolled a sideways pass to Jota, twenty five yards from goal and the Blues record signing took aim with a cheeky shot, that Wildsmith went down on one knee to meet, but fumbled and couldn't hold onto the ball as it found the back of the net under his body. Whoops!
Birmingham fans in the Leppings Lane upper tier
Jos Luhukay had seen enough and before the game restarted, he ruthlessly substituted his skipper Glenn Loovens out of necessity  and sent on a forward, Lucas Joao, to replace him. The humiliation for a skipper being hauled off inside the first half a hour, must have been unbearable for Loovens, but something drastic had to be done imminently, although, to be fair, he wasn't the only player having a 'mare' at the back for the hosts, not by any stretch of the imagination.
There was a setback for the visitors in the thirty third minute, when Jonathan Grounds and Jacob Butterfield both went into a hefty challenge (with no malicious intent by either party) for a fifty-fifty ball in the middle of the pitch, that led to Grounds being stretchered off and the first half being extended by seven minutes.
Cohen Bramall replaced the unfortunate Grounds and within five minutes of him entering the fray he was called upon to shield the ball from Marco Matias as he went for a goal kick. I personally didn't see what happened between the two players next, when words were exchanged between them off the ball, because I was at the opposite end of the stand, but the match referee Scott Duncan, was called over by his assistant who was only yards away from the pair and after a consultation between the two officials, Matias was sent off.
An angry chap a couple of rows behind me bellowed: "Well done referee, you just cost us the game you dickhead!"
Perhaps he (Mr Angry) hadn't been taking much notice of the game thus far if he thought that his team were going to lose as the consequence of a referee's decision, as opposed to Birmingham turning the screw and taking full advantage of Wednesday's shaky defence.
Either way, he never returned to his seat for the second half.
A Finland flag ;-)
Bramall, to a chorus of boos from the Hillsborough faithful, broke free on the left and delivered a telling ball, that evaded two ball watching defenders and reached Jota at the back post, who could only poke it into the side netting.
Boga tried his luck with a long range effort from outside the area, that Wildsmith got his body behind to save... cue ironic cheering from the home fans on the Kop behind him.
Five minutes into stoppage time, Jota found the net again, when David Stockdale's long clearance was flicked on by Gallacher towards Davis, who saw Morgan Fox moving up behind him, so he nudged the ball over him, turned and rounded the Owls number 6 and tested Wildsmith with an angled cross/shot from out on the left, that the Wednesday keeper got a hand to, but could only turn the ball into the path of Jota, who helped himself to his second and Birmingham's third goal from close range. Jota had never scored for Birmingham City before, prior to today.
Right on the stroke of half time Joao motored forward to edge of the visitors, to his left Atdhe Nuhiu was well placed, to his right Liam Palmer was moving in to the area at pace, and before him a great opportunity to shoot presented itself, but the Owls substitute tricked everyone, with a deft back heel to... nobody in particular! And the visitors cleared the apparent danger away with ease, sending Davis away in attack, whose angled chip beat Wildsmith but dropped just wide of the right hand post.
As the teams left the pitch at half time, a group of Wednesday supporters in the corner section of the Kop sang "You're just a shit Aston Villa!" towards the visiting team and fans.
Hmm, if Birmingham are really that bad, it speaks volumes for a team who had just put in a slapstick comedy forty five minutes and are trailing against them by three goals. Just saying.
HT: Owls 0 v Blues 3
"Have you put the score the wrong way round?", replied a friend who I texted a message to, pertaining to the half time state of play.
The home side came out for the second half, looking as though they had actually been introduced to each other during the interval break. Joao and Palmer were looking lively, but the visitors could take their foot off the gas now and concentrate on containing the Owls.
Adam Reach shot straight into the visitors defensive wall as the home side endeavoured to take the first steps on the long slog of a trek back into the game and nine minutes after the restart, they were rewarded with a decent effort by, Nuhiu played the ball out wide to the left, that Joao won in the air, before advancing on Stockdale's goal, saw off the challenge of Marc Roberts and slotted a low shot just inside the left hand post.
Boga was close to creating a fourth goal for the visitors, when he showed good feet to two Owls defenders before playing the ball sideways to Davis who was only denied by a brilliant save by Wildsmith.
Birmingham indulged in a game of 'keep ball', passing across the midfield, back to Stockdale, forward to the midfield again and repeating the drill, while patiently and comfortably running the clock down with ease, while their hosts stood off, knowing that leaving any more gaps to exploit would probably see the lid nailed down on the coffin of their woeful afternoon.
In the first half, Pudil and Stockdale had both been yellow carded for squaring up to each other and it proved costly to the Wednesday player, who hacked down Colin as he motored towards the edge of the Wednesday area and prepared to shoot, because his second booking meant that he was on his way to play with the rubber ducks in the bath with Matias. Which, if truth be told, was probably more fun that staying involved in this game any longer.
Including stoppage time, there was still around twenty five minutes left to play, but the steady trickle of home fans heading for the exits now became a flood as they haemorrhaged onto the surrounding streets.
"Is there a fire drill?"
There is no doubt that Birmingham had deserved this win, by virtue of being the better team on the day, but Wednesday had made a proper pigs ear of making any kind of impression on the game, apart from a short spell at the outset of the second half.
Still the small gang of big lumps to the side of the Kop, kept venting their spleen, this time at the referee... but it wasn't his fault that their keeper had made an uncharacteristic mistake for the second goal, or that Pudil had recklessly jumped into a challenge when he was already on a yellow card, or that on numerous occasions the Wednesday defence had resembled a team of Morris Dancers doing a conga between their tenth and eleventh pub of the night.
The 'Wednesdayites' I was sat near, were incensed when Cheikh Ndoye, fouled Joao as he dribbled towards the right hand side of Birmingham's area, because he was only yellow carded (for his first bookable offence) whereas Pudil had been sent off (for receiving a second yellow card) a short while before. 
But I'll excuse them, because I'm just as guilty of displaying similarly tunnel visioned blindness on occasion, as I'm sure that we all are.
A throng a players jockeyed for position, but Reach opted to go for glory and 'spooned' his free kick high and wide of the far post.
I was starting to feel a bit lonely as I stood up to let the rest of the people on my row out... maybe they all wanted to get home in time to watch Wolves v Sheffield United on the TV, but I was too polite to ask, given how angry and thoroughly miserable they all looked.
Joao almost slashed the deficit, when he cracked off a twenty five yard pile-driver, that only narrowly cleared Stockdale's bar.
Wildsmith denied Boga right at the death.. and that was that, Birmingham had recorded their second 3-1 win of the week and scaled the table to the giddy heights of nineteenth, four points above the bottom three and only three behind today's opponents.
FT: Sheffield Wednesday 1 v Birmingham City 3
Getting away in the car from Hillsborough after the game was much easier than usual, probably as a consequence of so many people having already vacated the area.
Blues now face Huddersfield in a midweek FA Cup replay, before making the short journey to Villa Park for the 'Second City Derby' next Sunday.
While Wednesday have a blank midweek and travel to Oakwell to face Barnsley for a midday tussle on Saturday.
There is never a dull moment, or time to take respite for a breather in this here Championship division.