January 28, 2015 by bluenosebible
Sheffield Wednesday 0-0 Birmingham City
Written by: Nat Peters
To put a positive slant on Tuesday evening, both Sheffield Wednesday and Blues showed the resilience and solidity which in all probability means neither side will be sucked anywhere near the relegation battle in the Championship. To put a negative slant on Tuesday evening, Sheffield Wednesday and Blues showcased their lack of quality and guile which will probably mean that neither side troubles the highest echelons of the Championship table at the end of this season.
Blues started with the same team that has started the majority of games under Gary Rowett’s tutelage, but the harmony built up by that line-up was disrupted by the withdrawal of Michael Morrison on twenty minutes through injury. Wednesday sensed our aerial vulnerability in Morrison’s absence and spent the rest of the first-half mainly pumping high balls into our box, primarily directed towards the rangy Atdhe Nuhiu. Credit to Robbo and Morrison’s replacement Jonathan Spector though, as in time they dealt with those high balls very successfully.
In fact Wednesday’s best chance in the first half came through a rare piece of intricate passing play. The men in blue and white pulled off a one touch pass and move sequence ended up with Jacques Maghoma, a one-time protégée of Rowett’s at Burton Albion, cutting inside from the left hand side and forcing a superb save from Darren Randolph. Wednesday applied plenty of pressure on the Blues backline in and around that time but to relatively little effect. The only other main point of panic was when Will Keane looked like he was going through on goal, only for Robbo to come in with a world class last ditch tackle to save the situation.
As the half wore on Blues started to get into the game more. Clayton Donaldson was inches away from tapping in a superb Jonathan Grounds centre, and soon afterwards David Cotterill forced Kieran Westwood to make a superb flying save to tip the ball over the bar with a rasping effort from the left hand corner of the penalty area. But that was that and a rather turgid first half ended goalless.
Anyone who was therefore hoping for a more exciting second period was in for a disappointment however. Wednesday had a decent chance very early on in the second half when a Chris Maguire free kick from the edge of the ‘D’ dipped just wide of Randolph’s right hand post. Ten minutes or so later at the Leppings Lane end of Hillsborough in front of the small band of Blues fans a Cotterill cross flew just over an unmarked Donaldson’s head at the back post.
By now though the pitch, which resembled a bog more than a playing surface, was really starting to hinder any attempts from either side to play football. Wednesday, perhaps used to the parlous state of their playing surface, adapted a bit quicker and resorted to the long ball game they were playing in the first-half. But credit to our defence, in particular the makeshift pairing of Robbo and Spector, who handled it superbly. Darren Randolph as well deserves much praise for the way he commanded his box. The only real chance The Owls had from open play came relatively late on, Nuhiu heading over at the back post when he should have done better.
Blues, just like in the first half, grew into things more as the second lot of forty-five minutes ticked on but lacked any real punch. David Cotterill’s swerving long range free kick was well held by Westwood, and Dimmy Gray’s jinking run past a couple of Wednesday defenders was followed by a relatively tame shot which trickled into the same Keeper’s arms. Gary Rowett tried to inspire an upturn in productivity by bringing on Lloyd Dyer for the ineffective Andy Shinnie and Wes Thomas came on for Donaldson with Gray moving ‘in the hole’ and Dyer taking Gray’s position wide on the left.
Rowett’s readjustments had little effect on proceedings though. Lewis Baker and Jose Semedo were rock solid for Wednesday in the centre of midfield and negated Gray as much as they negated Shinnie. If I was Gary Rowett I may have changed formation and gone with a straight front two up top, partnering Thomas with Donaldson rather than replacing Donaldson to try and be more direct and use their pace and strength to stretch Wednesday’s defence on what is a massive Hillsborough pitch. Then again if I was Gary Rowett I’d be about eight stone lighter and would have much better styled facial hair, so it’s a moot point.
The game petered out to the final whistle though, and despite being a dross game to watch Blues can be pleased with a good point against a side who have been in the upper half of the Championship table all season. It was important to try and bounce back from the disappointment of losing to the Baggies in the FA Cup, and a clean sheet was a great way of doing that. Rowett’s men can now look to Norwich at home on Saturday with a solid performance behind them.
Sheffield Wednesday manager Stuart Gray: “The pitch isn’t the best but it’s the same for both teams.
“I want to get the ball down and play but unfortunately for players, they are tensing up because the ball’s bouncing all over the place.
“When you do get in and get opportunities, you’ve got to be more clinical in front of goal.”
Birmingham manager Gary Rowett: “Under the circumstances, I think that’s a fantastic, gritty performance and a very good clean sheet and point for us.
“I think the pitch had a complete bearing on the game, probably a hundred per cent bearing on the game.”
Starting line up: Randolph; Caddis, Morrison (Spector 21′), Robinson, Grounds; Davis, Gleeson; Cotterill, Shinnie (Dyer 71′), Gray; Donaldson (Thomas 84′)
Subs not used: Doyle, Reilly, Novak, Zigic
Man of the match: Paul Robinson