Trouble ahead if Owls don’t improve: Burton Albion 1 Sheffield Wednesday 1

Gary Hooper scores. Pictures: Steve Ellis
Gary Hooper scores. Pictures: Steve Ellis

Normally four points from back-to-back away matches would be classed as a good return in the Championship.

Normally there would be no reason to panic or be concerned after seeing just one league victory in the opening three weeks of a new campaign.

But standards have been raised at Sheffield Wednesday since chairman Dejphon Chansiri’s arrival.

Expectation levels are sky high following back-to-back play-off finishes and Thai businessman Chansiri has set his sights on a top-two finish this season. The pressure is on the team from the owner and fans to deliver every single match.

It is early days but right now the Owls look a long way off mounting an automatic-promotion tilt.

For the third year running under boss Carlos Carvalhal, Wednesday have made a sluggish start to a season.

Problems for Keiren Westwood

Problems for Keiren Westwood

We are only five matches in and the Owls are already trailing early pace-setters Cardiff City by nine points. Given the lavish amounts of money that Wednesday have spent and how settled Carvalhal’s squad is, that is not good enough.

Lessons have not been learned. The same mistakes keep happening over and over again. It is a recipe for disaster giving teams a head start in this league.

And it was another tale of what might have been at the Pirelli Stadium.

Against the run of play, Gary Hooper, the Owls’ star man, put the visitors ahead in the 36th minute. A top side full of confidence and self-belief would have rammed home that advantage and closed the match out.

Wednesday didn’t.

It was a missed opportunity. End of story.

Their finishing continues to let them down at one end and defensive lapses in concentration are costing them dearly at the other. It is a toxic combination.

And Burton, a big, strong, physical, direct team, deservedly salvaged a draw after the Owls failed to deal effectively with a long throw-in.

Joe Mason equalises against the Owls

Joe Mason equalises against the Owls

Centre-forward Joe Mason made an immediate impact after coming on as a second-half substitute. The Wolves loanee had a debut to remember, scoring with his first touch to ensure Brewers chief Nigel Clough has now gone eight matches without defeat as a manager against Wednesday.

THE FLASHPOINT

It could have been a different contest altogether had Marvin Sordell been sent off in the first period following a reckless, clumsy challenge on Keiren Westwood.

Sordell, who wasted a glorious chance to give Burton a fourth-minute lead, raced on to Sean Scannell’s pass but he caught Westwood late and very high. He was lucky to stay on the pitch and somehow escaped even a booking.

“We missed our goalkeeper in a situation that was a clear red card,” said Carvalhal.

After receiving treatment for several minutes, Westwood tried to play through the pain barrier but ultimately limped off and was replaced by Joe Wildsmith. He suffered heavy bruising and left the ground with his right leg strapped up. Westwood may miss the Republic of Ireland’s forthcoming World Cup qualifiers.

He tweeted: “Think I’m lucky I rode the challenge. Would hate to think what might have happened. Pls God it’s just bruising an no ligament damage.”

It was a poor decision by referee Darren Bond but Wednesday have nobody to blame but themselves for dropping two points.

SUPER HOOPER

Hooper’s opener was a beauty. He started and finished the move. The ball broke kindly to Jack Hunt on the right and his low centre was deftly backheeled home by Hooper.

Almost everything good about the Owls offensively came through Hooper. Burton struggled all afternoon to keep him quiet.

The experienced striker constantly dropped deep in between the lines to receive possession to link the midfield and attack. It was like watching a master at work.

It was just a pity no other chances fell Hooper’s way. He looked razor-sharp and in the mood to inflict more pain on the Brewers. He also scored in the corresponding fixture last year.

It was a big call by Carvalhal to play Hooper and Steven Fletcher up front after Jordan Rhodes’ Carabao Cup exploits but the pair fully vindicated his selection call. After Mason restored parity, Fletcher steered Hunt’s inviting cross narrowly wide.

Burton were indebted to midfielder Luke Murphy for heading Daniel Pudil’s hooked shot off the line in the latter stages. And David Jones also headed over the crossbar from close range to compound Wednesday’s frustration.

CHANGE NEEDED

Carvalhal is not a fool. He does not need telling that the Owls are under-performing. It is up to him to get more out of the group individually and collectively.

Burton were there for the taking at the start of the second half. There would have been no way back for the Brewers if Wednesday had scored a second goal. Instead, Carvalhal’s men let in a soft equaliser.

Despite their much-vaunted attack, the Owls have scored a meagre four league goals. More contributions are required from every department of the team.

All is not well and it was extremely telling Carvalhal didn’t turn to Fernando Forestieri on the bench when he needed a moment of inspiration.

“I’m not worried,” insisted Carvalhal. “The way we are playing, we will achieve points.”

There is likely to be some incomings and outgoings on the transfer front before Thursday’s 11pm deadline. Carvalhal’s squad needs a shake-up.

Something has to change or Wednesday risk going backwards.

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