Ful­ham show Hunt and Wed­nes­day what might have been

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - FOOTBALL - NICK WESTBY AT HILLS­BOR­OUGH ■ Email: nick.westby@jpress.co.uk ■ Twit­ter: @NWest­byYPS­port

JACK HUNT be­lieves that if Car­los Car­val­hal was still in charge of Sh­effield Wed­nes­day, they would be at the top end of the Cham­pi­onship chal­leng­ing Ful­ham for pro­mo­tion.

The Por­tuguese lost his job on Christ­mas Eve af­ter a dif­fi­cult first half of the cam­paign fol­low­ing two sea­sons in which the Owls had reached the play­offs. Within a week he was the sur­prise ap­point­ment at seem­ingly-doomed Swansea City, whom he has now lifted to the cusp of Premier League sur­vival.

Wed­nes­day, by con­trast, have been un­able to rescue a lost sea­son and only al­layed the fear of slip­ping to­wards a rel­e­ga­tion dog­fight with 10 points gained in their four fix­tures prior to this.

Just how far off the pro­mo­tion pace they have fallen, though, was il­lus­trated on Satur­day by a Ful­ham side who con­trolled the con­test and should have had the three points wrapped up long be­fore Alek­san­dar Mitro­vic’s 78th-minute win­ner.

That made it 19 games un­beaten for the Cot­tagers, who, like Wed­nes­day, en­dured an in­dif­fer­ent first half of the cam­paign fol­low­ing their own play-off dis­ap­point­ment be­fore go­ing on a run that has put them within strik­ing dis­tance of the au­to­matic pro­mo­tion places.

Right wing-back Hunt – a main­stay of Car­val­hal’s Wed­nes­day teams – could only look on with envy at what might have been.

“I gen­uinely be­lieve that be­fore Car­los went we could have had a play-off push,” said Hunt, who ac­knowl­edged that a lengthy in­jury list has also con­trib­uted to the sense of un­der-achieve­ment this sea­son.

“It wasn’t go­ing the way we wanted but, in De­cem­ber, Ful­ham weren’t where they wanted to be – but they are now.

“We could have done that with the play­ers we’ve had miss­ing – and there are a lot of peo­ple that we have missed this sea­son.

“But the team hasn’t changed much over the past two years.

“I en­joyed play­ing for Car­los, I had a great two years with him and didn’t want to see him go but it’s not my de­ci­sion to make. It’s the board’s de­ci­sion to make.”

Such an en­dorse­ment of Car­val­hal may not re­flect well on his suc­ces­sor, Jos Luhukay, who in fair­ness to the Dutch­man, in­her­ited a squad de­void of a num­ber of in­jured play­ers who had formed the cor­ner­stone of those successive play-off runs.

Hunt was speak­ing af­ter a frus­trat­ing af­ter­noon on the pitch, when, as part of Luhukay’s 3-5-2 for­ma­tion, he was fre­quently left iso­lated against two Ful­ham play­ers, one of those be­ing light­ning-quick winger Ryan Sesseg­non, who is bound for the Premier League with or with­out Ful­ham.

Luhukay’s for­ma­tion meant Wed­nes­day were too nar­row, Ful­ham stretch­ing them with their pace on the flanks; Sesseg­non on the left and Sheyi Ojo on the right, both of whom were ably sup­ported by their re­spec­tive full-backs.

That the goal came from out wide sur­prised no-one, just the length of time it took the West Lon­don­ers to beat goal­keeper Joe Wild­smith, who had res­o­lutely stood up to clear-cut chances for Ojo, Mitro­vic and Ste­fan Jo­hansen.

When fi­nally they did break clear, Sesseg­non was re­leased down the left and he fizzed the ball across the face of goal for Mitro­vic to guide into the roof of the net.

“They had a lot of pos­ses­sion and we lim­ited them to just a cou­ple of chances but we were noth­ing spe­cial,” added Hunt.

“I think it was dif­fi­cult be­cause I had two ver­sus one all the time down that side. I’m not go­ing to be happy with how we played be­cause he (Sesseg­non) set up the win­ning goal.”

Sesseg­non and Mitro­vic pro­vided the Premier League class to a con­fi­dent per­for­mance from Ful­ham.

Wed­nes­day’s own dif­fer­ence­maker of the last two sea­sons, Fer­nando Forestieri, came off the bench for a 15-minute cameo as he con­tin­ued his re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion from a long in­jury but when Adam Reach laid the ball off to him deep into stop­page time he could only blaze over.

Barry Bannan’s own rein­te­gra­tion into the team af­ter a long ab­sence was cut short af­ter 30 min­utes as he pulled up clutch­ing his groin; he, Hunt and many more in blue and white left to look at Ful­ham and won­der what might have been.

Sh­effield Wed­nes­day: Wild­smith, Ve­nan­cio, Lees, Pudil; Hunt, Pelu­pessy, Reach, Bannan (But­ter­field 30), Boyd (Ma­tias 86); Joao (Forestieri 76), Nuhiu. Un­used sub­sti­tutes: Daw­son, Jones, Rhodes, Forestieri, Thorni­ley. Ful­ham: Bet­tinelli, Fred­er­icks, Odoi, Ream, Tar­gett; McDon­ald, Jo­hansen, Cair­ney; Ojo (Ayite 62 (Ke­bano 72)), Sesseg­non, Mitro­vic. Un­used sub­sti­tutes: But­ton, Ke­bano, Nor­wood, Christie, Kalas, Ka­mara. Ref­eree: S Mar­tin (Stafford­shire).

PIC­TURE: STEVE EL­LIS

UN­HAPPY RE­TURN: Barry Bannan’s re­turn from in­jury was cut short as he came off in the first half with groin trou­ble.

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