GR-EIGHT OWLS ARE ON MARCH
UNBEATEN in eight games and sitting pretty in the Championship top ten, Sheffield Wednesday are starting to have the appearance of legitimate promotion contenders.
Yet despite seeing his side pick up a comfortable away derby victory over Rotherham on Friday night, boss Carlos Carvalhal is still refusing to dub them as such.
His assertion that there are ten or 12 teams in the division superior to the Owls may yet prove to be true come the end of the season, but with the dog days of winter fast approaching it is hard to pinpoint even one or two sides in better form.
In truth, the manner of victory over Rotherham was far more convincing than the 2-1 scoreline suggests – impressive strike duo Lucas Joao and Fernando Forestieri both bagging a goal in a five-minute blitz just after the break, thanks partly to some suspect goalkeeping from Millers stopper Lee Camp.
Tom Thorpe did net a consolation goal in the final minute of stoppage time at the New York Stadium but Carvalhal remains ecstatic at the progress shown by his Wednesday outfit.
“It’s amazing how in three months we have changed a lot of things, but we are still in the process,” said Carvalhal.
“The players are doing fantastic, they follow our ideas, they have an amazing attitude, they are playing like a group.
“There are probably ten or 12 teams better than us in this competition and we have to show on the pitch that we can fight with these teams and let’s see what we can do.
“We will fight game by game to do our best. There are teams more ready than us but what we can do is be one of 12 teams that are fighting for the top six. Some teams are stronger than others.
“I still think we can do better. I was not too pleased with the first-half performance, we could have done better and we talked about that in the break.”
It was a relatively even first period in the South Yorkshire derby, if a little short of genuine chances, with Owls midfielder Barry Bannan heading the half’s best opportunity narrowly over.
But Carvalhal’s half-time team talk had an impact as the visitors found themselves 2-0 up by the 50-minute mark.
Firstly, Thorpe’s defensive error enabled Forestieri to fire a 46thminute strike at goal which Camp could only push into the path of Portuguese frontman Joao, who side-footed home.
Then four minutes later, Camp inexplicably pushed a weak Daniel Pudil header straight to Forestieri, who couldn’t fail to tap in.
Rotherham are firmly entrenched in the bottom three and it is clear to see why as they looked short of ideas in attack, creating little during the 90 minutes in front of their own fans.
They did get on the scoreboard in injury time when Thorpe slotted home from Chris Maguire’s cross but boss Neil Redfearn’s search for a first win since taking charge goes on.
And the 50-year-old was left to bemoan individual errors that ensured the Millers haven’t beaten Wednesday in the league since 1976. He said: “I think if you look at both goals they’re poor from our point of view. It’s poor defending from young Tom Thorpe who could have cleared it and a couple of things come off Lee Camp who’s done ever so well for us in recent times.
“I knew when I came in and I said the other night that it might be two steps forward and one back and tonight is one back.
“We talked at half-time about coming out the traps which we did against Reading, and we got the crowd up and got the equaliser on the front foot, but here we did exactly the opposite.”
BIG HEART: Fernando Forestieri celebrates after scoring Sheffield Wednesday’s second goal
STAR MAN FERNANDO FORESTIERI