Team selections and substitutions leave a lot questions unanswered

Last updated : 24 January 2011 By C. Morris

Last weekend I witnessed Sheffield Wednesday play abysmally for the first 45 minutes against Charlton as they found themselves 2-0 down at the break at Hillsborough.

Had Alan Irvine had the option he could well have substituted 8 or 9 of the players at the break such was the all-round ineptness of the performance. As it was, tow changes were made and within 10 minutes the Owls had levelled matters and will count themselves somewhat unlucky not to have gone on to take all 3 points.

The transformation was thanks largely to the introduction of striker Paul Heffernan. The former Doncaster frontman found the net within a couple of minutes of the restart and his link up play and intelligent use of the ball had many marking him down as the man-of-the-match. Jermaine Johnson also came on at half-time and although he didn’t always make the best use of possession his attacking intent and unpredictability often had the Owls opponents on the back foot.

One week later and Heffernan, who has so often seemingly been overlooked by Irvine this season, once again had to settle for a place on the bench. Johnson was also amongst the substitutes again as Wednesday opted to go with the same midfield that had offered so little a week earlier. Irvine chose to start with new signing Gary Madine up front alongside Clinton Morrison whilst Lewis Buxton came straight back into the side at right-back following weeks out with a hamstring injury, Michael Morrison reverted to centre-back to replace departed captain Darren Purse.

To be fair, Wednesday started well with Madine looking sharp. However, it didn’t take long for the home side to figure out that Wednesday were offering little as an attacking threat down the right and having pinpointed the Owls left-side as the danger they were able to nullify this as the half went on and the away side began to look predictable.

With the half-time score at 0-0 there was little sign of the capitulation that followed, however the changes that were made at the break, like the starting line-up, also raised a few eyebrows. Lewis Buxton did not reappear due to a problem with his hamstring. Buxton has suffered the injury previously this season and was brought straight back into the team for a tough away game in cold conditions without much match practice in the reserves or perhaps one or two substitute appearance to gradually work  on his match fitness. The outcome was a reoccurrence of the injury resulting in a longer lay-off. With this in mind it was surprising to see him start this game and sadly the defending was virtually no-existent in the 2nd half. Irvine opted to replace Buxton with centre-half Beevers, meaning that the centre-back partnership of Johnson and Morrison was split up as the latter moved to right-back.

Madine had also picked up a knock in the 1st half and had to be replaced. Despite his game changing display last weekend Heffernan was once again overlooked as Mellor took to the field. By the time Jermaine Johnson replaced the injured Tommy Miller on the hour Wednesday were already 2-0 down and from then on the revised central midfield pair of O’Connor and Sedgwick could do little to turn things around with the Owls slipping to a desperate 4-0 defeat.