Mistletoe and whine

8 Dec

Saturday 7th December 2013

Sheffield Wednesday   0.1          Nottingham Forest

(Cox)

Football rivalry can be a strange and unusual beast. Growing up in Rotherham in the 80s, I hated Sheffield Wednesday. Now admittedly, this may well have been something to do with the following factors: I was young and impressionable, Wednesday were pretty decent and Sheffield United were pretty hopeless.  How things change.

Well, some things do anyway. United, having significantly improved somewhat throughout the 90s and noughties, appear to be sliding back into the dark depths of an extended stay in League 1. Wednesday have certainly had their ups and downs over the years and although they are currently top dogs in the steel city, are having a hard time of it. But you knew that anyway. In some ways, Forest’s rivalry with these clubs has evolved to reflect these changing fortunes. As United became regular and close rivals on the pitch, as did an intense rivalry off the pitch. No doubt Neil Warnock’s leadership of the Blades contributed significantly to the situation: he is a difficult man to like. That and the painful defeat in the play-off semi-final too. However, a healthy degree of respect seems to have evolved recently between Forest and Owls fans. I guess it helps that both clubs share a common enemy in the shape of the Blades. Indeed, both sets of fans singing about how much they hate United were applauded by each other on the sardine-like tram out to Hillsborough.

This was a big game for us. Wednesday rather predictably did that thing that managerless teams do and went and beat Leicester in midweek. We came into this game on a dodgy run of form and outside of the play-offs. This was going to be tricky.

In truth, it wasn’t a great game. Wednesday came close with a header early on but Cox really should have hit the target or passed to either Reid or Abdoun when on the edge of the six yard box. He did neither and the ball ended up in the upper tier. The dynamic of the game changed with an early goal from Cox in the second half. Cox. Again. He’s almost on a bit of a run now and his confidence appears to be growing as he not only continues to hold the ball well but is adding a cutting edge that we thought he always had. A nicely crafted goal.

This took the wind out of the Owls’ sails and although they exerted some sustained pressure, we felt reasonably safe as we defended well. It is clear that Wednesday lack any form of cutting edge up front. Wickham wins headers and is a handful but any form of quality in the final third was often lacking. Nonetheless, the 5 minutes added time seemed to stretch out like a telescopic leg of Viv Anderson; all our own fault really since it was our time wasting tactics that meant it would be 5 minutes in the first place. Still, everyone does it now.

It really is difficult to judge how we are doing this season and divisions have formed recently between fans. For all the brouhaha, we are probably where we thought we would be: in the play-offs. Early season optimism after three straight wins got the better of us and raised expectations. But it was important to win this as without the victory, the poor run of results would no doubt have been magnified. We weren’t outstanding, free-flowing, fluent and Dutch like in our execution of total football. But then, who is? We were solid though and did enough. Pleasingly, Cox scored again, Jara Reyes looked increasingly comfortable in the defensive midfield role and Reid, well, Andy Reid deserves a lot of love. It was also nice to see Dan Harding recover from a shocking first half to turn in a steady second half performance. Perhaps more significantly, the crowd didn’t get on his back or jeer him. Well, not so he could hear anyway. Abdoun? That defensive game is still very much a work in progress.

Normal service resumed. Now let’s sort out that home form.

 

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