I don’t think there can be too many Owls fans upset with the draw. It was a disappointing start with Wednesday conceding a goal very early on, and another before twenty-five minutes had been played. But we battled back and earned a draw. Stoke are a good side with some very talented players. Their season will improve and Stoke will pull away from the bottom of the table.
In the opening twenty minutes or so I feared the worst. Stoke were winning the tactical battle in a big way. We were being carved open again and again. The problem was in the midfield. We were playing with a three-man midfield, with Joao and Matias acting as wingers/inside forwards. The central three of Reach, Bannan and Pelupessy were finding themselves dragged away from each other as the more compact Stoke midfield passed their way through us. When a Stoke player had the ball, they had options to release the ball with a short pass. We really struggled to get to grips with this in the early stages.
Our first goal came at exactly the right time. Had we not responded instantly to Stoke’s second goal, I’m not sure we would have battled back. However, we did score and there are some huge positives to take out of that spirited fightback.
Jordan Thorniley impressed me today. He managed to put himself in front of chance after chance for Stoke and make crucial blocks. Thorniley could become a very important player for us in the coming years, especially if Profit and Sustainability starts to bite at the end of the season. What I think our defence does lack is experience and a natural leader. The back five yesterday, Dawson, Palmer, Lees, Thorniley and Penney, has an average age of just over 23. Tom Lees is the oldest at 27, with Liam Palmer 26. I like Tom Lees, but I am not convinced he is a natural Captain or leader.
I was really excited to see Matt Penney, as today was my first chance to see him for the first team. For the most part it was a very competent performance. I would have liked to see him whip in a few early crosses but that is my only slight criticism. I think there were times when he could have gambled a little with the early ball, but I think that initiative will come with experience and confidence.
It was nice to see the Stoke fans join in the applause for the young Owls fan who passed away recently. Several Wednesday fans have commented on how this gesture increased their respect for The Potters. I saw quite a few Stoke fans after the game and it was good to see no trouble. I’ve had a few bad experiences with fans of other clubs that play in red and white (Sunderland especially) but I definitely have a bit more respect for these fans after witnessing their behaviour.
Barry Bannan is improving all the time and he is a pleasure to watch. I believe Barry Bannan would be even better with the right partner in midfield. I’ve said it before and will say it again; we need a box-to-box monster in midfield. With that sort of player yesterday, I doubt we would have found ourselves two-nil down after twenty minutes. Bannan, Pelupessy and Reach as a midfield three lacks a certain edge. If Lee was fit and playing there instead of Pelupessy or Reach, then there would be a different dynamic although not quite the dynamic I want to see.
Overall, I went into the game thinking we had a real chance to win. A draw could be seen as a disappointment, but considering the start we had we have to look at the positives and acknowledge that we battled back and earned that point. It was a fairly even game but there could be an argument for Stoke having edged the game slightly. At times, their Premier League experience and quality showed. Stoke were not as bad as their recent form suggests.
We have two away games coming up in quick succession; Forest and then Villa. I expect us to make a couple of changes for the Forest game. I would not be surprise dot see both Hector and Onomah start. I actually feel pretty confident about the Forest game and think we will get a win.
On Sunday, CS Sportul Snagov continue their campaign to win promotion from Liga 2 in Romania as they travel to Poli Timișoara. With Academica Clinceni winning early Saturday morning, Snagov start their game four points behind. Snagov go into the match as firm favourites and I expect them to get back to winning ways and move back to second place in Liga 2.
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Critic. Writer. Thinker. Observer. Creator of nowwelive.com.