I don’t know that there’s much useful that can be said the day after another depressing defeat, our fifth in succession. To recap, we had begun this run with some still hoping we could make a late run to the play-offs, if we were able to beat the teams around the top six coming up. Instead we’ve lost to each of them, in dispiriting fashion even allowing for the injuries which have rendered the team impotent. In some of these losses we’ve had periods of being on top, even one of being ahead, but not yesterday. In some of the games we’ve conceded goals from set pieces, in others through just being picked open by balls into space and decent movement. Yesterday in the first half we had one of each and, despite the introduction of Stockley at half-time, the game was effectively over with the second.
There was no change to the formation but a nod to a more defensive approach in the selection of the wing-backs, Matthews and Purrington, with Castillo dropping out. And the issue of who might partner Inniss didn’t arise as he has seemingly succumbed to injury again, with Jackson opting for the same back three as against MK Dons and Pearce on the bench. Dobson, Gilbey and Morgan were also retained in midfield, rather surprisingly Burstow was declared fit and started, with Lee replacing Leko as a second forward. The good news came in the form of Stockley and Fraser being named among the subs.
Now I’ll come clean and admit I missed the first 10 minutes of the game. We’d gone for a long walk up to the mill outside Givry and then on to the hamlet of Jambles. A domaine we’d been meaning to make a visit to (https://www.domainechristophedrain.fr/) was open and that meant a slight delay to the return to Poncey. By the time we made it back and had the laptop up and running and streaming sorted we were one down. Apparently we’d been stunned by a strong start by Sheff Wed, pinning in our own half nervously hacking clearances, and from a free kick a guy flicked it on and over everyone into the net (I could tell that from the half-time replays).
Most of the rest of the first half that I saw was scrappy and unremarkable, except for the perhaps unintentional but still nasty clothes-line on Matthews which saw him have to leave the pitch after 30 minutes, replaced by Jaiyesimi. Now we’d conceded in midweek when a ball was played in behind Matthews and not covered by the centre-backs. This time around, as half-time approached, DJ was caught in a poor position and flat-footed, unable to intercept the pass or catch the guy running on to it. He squared it and they scored.
The only attacking moment from us in the first half I can remember was a decent ball into the box from Morgan, which only just evaded a couple of couple of ours. Otherwise Burstow got no change from their defence, Lee, Gilbey and others had moments but nothing more as we were unable to retain the ball and apply any sort of pressure.
The introduction of Stockley at the break, for Morgan, with Lee dropping back, gave us some reason to hope for better. But after so long out he looked rusty and tentative. We did get a chance to get back in the game, but one courtesy of Wednesday. Their defender decided to cut back inside across his own goal, was closed down and lost possession. It ran to Burstow. He cleverly used Stockley as the decoy but his shot went into the keeper’s midriff instead of either side of him, low or high.
Leko came on for Burstow on the hour, later Fraser replaced Gilbey. But their defence was really untroubled aside from that one chance. We should have had a penalty in injury time but that really would have flattered us. Wednesday had an entirely comfortable afternoon in which they won the physical battles all over the pitch and were able to operate for the second half in second gear, well aware of our problems.
On Tuesday night the only good news was that Morecambe lost. Yesterday the only good news was that they didn’t win, having gone ahead at home to Ipswich. The gap to the fourth relegation spot is only trimmed to eight points (or 8.5 given goal difference). When asked if we are in a relegation battle Curbs said ‘no’ and he’s probably right. But we might be before long. Five teams have to overtake us to put us into the bottom four with only 12 games left. Suffice to say we have to win points to ensure that won’t happen. JJ has all week to figure out how we should set up against Sunderland and who should feature; happily Morecambe’s next two games are away to Plymouth and Bolton.
Let’s wrap up on a more positive note. At least someone we like had a good day yesterday. John Pearson it seems gave an interview to the Sheffield Star before the game, talking of his sorrow at leaving Wednesday but also his time at Charlton, the central role he played in us winning promotion to the top flight for the first time in my life. It’s well worth a quick read: https://www.thestar.co.uk/sport/football/sheffield-wednesday/john-pearson-reflects-on-his-career-and-owls-playoff-chances-3585054?fbclid=IwAR2fQaHhKbFkc_LmxQip1gazwTqBiC4VOoFVCs0dEGC_P_iDzSsmNtgHyg8
When John Pearson left us I wrote to him via the club just to say thanks for all he’d done and what it meant to at least one young Addick. I still have the very kind letter he wrote back. He featured for Leeds of course in the play-off final at St Andrews and afterwards Peter Shirtliff was talking – in a thick Yorkshire accent of course – about how he felt for Leeds and some of their players, like Pearson, “because I like the boy”. So do I.