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Saturday, 17 November, 2018

Fine margins behind Sheffield Wednesday's slump

Pressure remains on Carvalhal after Derby defeat

Sheffield Wednesday boss Carlos Carvalhal
1 of 1

Sky Bet Championship
Derby 2 Sheffield Wednesday 0
Vydra 5
Johnson 86

Low-scoring sports such as football will usually be decided by fine margins and nobody will understand that more than Sheffield Wednesday manager Carlos Carvalhal.

On the same day that Huddersfield were beating the mighty Manchester United in the Premier League, Wednesday slumped to their fourth defeat in five Sky Bet Championship contests to leave the Portuguese boss fighting for his future after a 2-0 loss at Derby.

It won't be lost on Carvalhal just how things could have been so different had Wednesday beaten Huddersfield in last season's playoff semi-final.

They led inside the final 20 minutes but a Tom Lees own goal saw the semi-final head to penalties where Huddersfield triumphed before also overcoming a bang-average Reading team via the same method in a desperately poor Wembley final.

And there is the crux of why the Wednesday fans are split, almost down the middle according to one Twitter poll I saw, on whether a new manager is needed.

Carvalhal deserves more time say his supporters. In two seasons at Hillsborough he has reached a playoff final and semi-final - nobody has come closer to guiding Wednesday back to the Premier League.


Team in focus

Mansfield

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Northampton

Borussia Dortmund

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However those who want him out also have a point.

Wednesday didn't turn up in the playoff final loss to Hull and they were so negative in the semi-final defeat to Huddersfield that maybe the not-so-wise Owls deserved what they got when it went the distance.

Fortune favours the brave and all that, and there is no way a side with Wednesday's budget should be only six points above the relegation zone. Then again, they are only the same distance away from Aston Villa, a side in a similar "crisis" just a few weeks ago, and now in the playoff positions.

You can go around in circles debating Carvalhal but what is undeniable is their ten men put in a tremendous amount of effort at Pride Park when they could quite easily have chucked the manager under the bus following a shambolic start.

Matej Vydra had already blazed over before Wednesday centre-back Glenn Loovens was stupidly sent off for fouling the Czech inside the box after just four minutes.

Vydra scored from the spot, leaving the visitors with the perfect opportunity to roll over if they wanted Carvalhal out and at first it looked as if Wednesday would be blown away on the day Storm Brian-swept across the East Midlands.

Tom Lawrence hit the post and Kieren Westwood saved from Richard Keogh but gradually Wednesday found a way back into the game.

Morgan Fox switched from left-back to partner Lees in the centre, Adam Reach moved back from midfield to defence and Steven Fletcher played a hybrid position off the left but joining up with impressive striker Gary Hooper whenever possible.

Fletcher headed wide when he should have done better and then appeared to be tripped by last man Craig Forsyth, who would surely have been sent off had the penalty been awarded. Even Rams boss Gary Rowett said it looked an "obvious penalty", and here we go back to those fine lines between success and failure.

Carvalhal was understandably raging but his team carried on fighting in the second half. Westwood made a couple of decent saves, although Wednesday had their moments of pressure before Bannan's long-range curler just missed the top corner.

Bannan was the best passer on the pitch by a long way but, minutes after going close to equalising and probably through exhaustion, he gave away cheap possession and Derby made sure of maximum points though substitute Bradley Johnson.

Those are football's fine margins.

The opposition

It was almost impossible to take too much from this game given Loovens' early red card but Rowett said afterwards he was unhappy with the performance despite the 2-0 win.

Rowett was right to call his players "sloppy" and they looked more vulnerable defensively than the stats would suggest. Wednesday failed to register a shot on target.

Derby's fluid front four were lively in the early part of the game, particularly their inverted wingers with Johnny Russell cutting in from the right and Lawrence doing likewise on the opposite flank. 

Lawrence has not scored in 11 outings since arriving from Leicester but on this show it looks a matter of time before he breaks his duck and the Welshman is worth following in the goalscorer markets.

Derby 4-2-3-1: Carson; Wisdom, Keogh, Davies, Forsyth; Huddlestone, Ledley; Russell, Vydra (Johnson 78), Lawrence (Thorne 88); Nugent (Martin 61).

Sheffield Wednesday 4-4-2: Westwood; Hunt, Lees, Loovens, Fox; Wallace (Matias 82), Lee, Bannan, Reach; Hooper, Fletcher (Lucas Joao 65).


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What is undeniable is their ten men put in a tremendous amount of effort when they could quite easily have chucked the manager under the bus
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