Steel City derby win required to make fans forget
BARRY BANNAN believes the Steel City derby could be the perfect game in which to rescue Sheffield Wednesday’s faltering season.
The Owls were humiliated by a second-half collapse at Hillsborough as Norwich City ripped apart the hosts’ fragile defence to end Saturday top of the Championship.
It was the fourth consecutive defeat for the Owls – who have the worst defensive record in the Championship, shipping 30 goals in 16 games – and leaves them hovering above the relegation zone.
A toxic atmosphere engulfed Hillsborough as goals from Teemu Pukki (2), Emi Buendia and substitute Dennis Srbeny saw the majority of home supporters in the 23,425 crowd make an early exit.
Those who remained chanted for out-of-favour Keiren Westwood and Sam Hutchinson to be recalled to the side, and chairman Dejphon Chansiri was confronted by angry fans outside the stadium, demanding Dutchman Jos Luhukay be sacked as manager.
It all leaves Wednesday in disarray heading into a daunting trip to neighbours Sheffield United on Friday night.
But Owls midfielder Bannan believes the derby atmosphere inside Bramall Lane could be just the acid test his stuttering team needs.
“We have a massive game on Friday, but it is probably one of the better games to come round at this time because if we win on Friday then everything gets forgotten about and the fans will be happy again,” said Bannan.
“It is probably a good game to go into considering the circumstances we are in at the minute.
“It’s not a great feeling. We are going through a tough time at the minute.
“It’s not a great result, but what can you do? It has happened now so we have to get on with it.
“[What is required is] hard work. We have got a week ahead of us to look forward to it.
“We have to get over this game over the next couple of days. We are off [yesterday].
“It gives us time to think about it and Monday is the start of a fresh week. It’s a massive game and one we look forward to.”
Wednesday were indebted to goalkeeper Cameron Dawson, who saved a fifth-minute penalty from Mario Vrancic.
The hosts should then have punished the Canaries – 5-1 losers on their last two visits to Hillsborough – as they created several good chances.
On-loan Josh Onomah was guilty of two glaring misses, both times after good work from Adam Reach, and Tim Krul denied Bannan’s long-range strike to go into half-time at 0-0.
But once Pukki netted on 51 minutes – pouncing on Moritz Leitner’s deflected shot – Wednesday’s fragility was exposed as panic set in and the defence disintegrated to leave Hillsborough stunned.
Five minutes later it was 2-0. Daniel Pudil, recalled to the defence with Michael Hector and Morgan Fox axed after the 3-1 loss at Birmingham City, hoofed a mis-hit clearance high into the air, and Buendia was afforded all the time and space to bring the ball down before firing beyond a stranded Dawson.
The Canaries smelled blood and they sliced through the Owls’ flimsy rearguard, a flowing move finished off by Finland international Pukki.
Statistics show Dawson has made more saves than any other goalkeeper in the Championship, and the 23-year-old boosted those figures to twice deny Srbeny and Onel Hernandez.
But the rookie goalkeeper was culpable for Norwich’s fourth goal, his weak clearance only reaching Vrancic, who slipped in Srbeny to complete the rout.
“It is not good enough and we know it is not good enough,“admitted Bannan.
“It is frustrating. It is hard to point out what it is.
“We should have gone into the break with a few goals under our belt. We missed a good few chances.
“In the second half it was like a completely different team that was out there. It is hard and everyone is frustrated.
“We have got to keep working hard. Obviously, January is a long MISERABLE TIME: way away so we can’t get players in.
“It’s that group in there that have got to work their hearts out for this club and fight and hopefully it will turn round.
“I wouldn’t say (Owls lack) confidence. I just think we are conceding too many goals as a team.
“You are never going to win games when you are conceding all the time.
“It is not pointing the finger at the defence. It is the whole team. We need to work harder defensively to keep the ball out of the net.
“We never really gave any chances to Norwic,h but in the second half as soon as they scored, just like in recent weeks, we went under. We gave them the freedom of the pitch and we need to address that and quickly.
“It doesn’t hurt us enough when we concede.
“I don’t think it hurts enough because we keep conceding goals at will. We need to address it and address it quickly.
“I’m confident we can turn it around. As bad as it is, we have still got a good team in there.”
Barry Bannan is dejected at full-tine after Sheffield Wednesday were comprehensively beaten at home by Norwich City. Inset, goalkeeper Cameron Dawson’s fifth-minute penalty save from Mario Vrancic had given the home side false hope.