Sheffield Wednesday 3-0 Birmingham: Five Things We Learnt

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Can Rhodes build on his first goal for the Owls? – themarshalltown.com

Sheffield Wednesday cement their place in the top six after a 3-0 win over Birmingham – but what have we learnt from the game?

Wednesday were more clinical

Sheffield Wednesday’s best spells of the match came in the first and closing 10 minutes of the match. It is a credit to goalscorers Jordan Rhodes and Sam Winnall that they scored two goals and the team scored three combined over those 20 minutes. The latter tended to drop deep and link play while Rhodes played on the last shoulder, meeting Ross Wallace’s 9th minute delivery to turn the ball home unmarked. Every time the ball went into Birmingham’s box, a flapping Tomasz Kuszczak, a shaky Jonathan Grounds and a rash Paul Robinson looked nervous about what the duo might do.

Birmingham swiftly improved

Within the space of three first half minutes, Birmingham hit the woodwork twice. Sheffield Wednesday’s Sam Hutchinson headed against his own post while right-back Emilio Nsue, who impressed going forward, hit the bar after a cross from David Davis. The energetic midfielder among others put in lots of outswinging crosses in the first half, helped by a Wednesday midfield that at times dropped back too easily.

Birmingham needed a finishing touch

There was an even start to the second half. The hosts threatened fleetingly from Wallace’s set plays while Craig Gardner had numerous attempts, hitting the side netting with a free-kick and later the bar with a firm drive from open play. That effort though only came once Gianfranco Zola added attacking midfielder Kerim Frei, who combined superbly with overlapping left-back Cheick Keita. The latter crossed to the near post but, not for the first time this year, Lukasz Jutkiewicz slipped at the crucial moment. If Blues had a predatory goalscorer such as Winnall or Rhodes attacking the ball at that moment, or indeed throughout the game, it could have been a different story.

Full-backs impress

With no out-and-out wingers starting, all four full-backs had extra attacking responsibilities. Nsue in the first half and Keita in the second excelled for Birmingham, even if they vacated gaps in behind on occasion. Owls left-back Morgan Fox was closer to the ‘slow and steady’ side of the spectrum, but teammate Jack Hunt on the other side answered some of his critics. He was key to the home side’s best spells and produced a wonderful cross for Winnall’s stooping header, which put the game beyond doubt.

Reach on for the ‘star’

After a glittering 15/16 campaign in which he left Championship pundits purring at his control and flair, Fernando Forestieri has seemingly let the fame get to his head. Having been shunted to the left to accommodate the excellent Winnall and Rhodes, the Argentine was brought off to make way for Adam Reach. The ex-Middlesbrough man proved a more natural occupant of the left wing role, providing both defensive balance and the capacity to carry the ball up the pitch. Reach did so for the final goal as Blues left gaps at the back, pushing high up the pitch, the wide man finishing calmly beyond Kuszczak.

This was not a flawless performance from Sheffield Wednesday, but they were better in both boxes.