12 November ~ Sheffield Wednesday take a break from chasing the League One leaders this weekend, but they won't welcome tomorrow's tricky trip to Morecambe in the first round of the FA Cup. The Owls' season started with a few stutters but after taking a 5-1 hammering at Stevenage in September their results have improved enough to leave them third in the table. At Hillsborough Gary Megson's men have been dominant. Last Saturday's 0-0 draw with Brentford is the only blemish on a record that has bucked a decade-long trend of Wednesday sides who have struggled to play in their imposing home.
Their away form has been more unreliable. Three defeats from their first four league games on the road left them playing catch-up to the leaders right from the start. Despite an improvement in their away form, frustrating results such as a midweek defeat to Carlisle towards the end of October have allowed Charlton to open up a seven-point gap at the top.
Megson and Owls fan can take heart, though. They have shown the ability to bounce back from disappointment and a fighting spirit – typified against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane in October, when they scored two goals in the last ten minutes to deservedly draw 2-2 – which has been sorely lacking in S6 for years. Comparisons to Neil Warnock's battling Blades team that played in the Premier League in 2006-07 may sit uncomfortably, but they are not out of place. Wednesday will also take heart from their proximity to Huddersfield Town in the league. For all the furore surrounding the Terriers' unbeaten run, Wednesday are a mere two points behind their slightly-lighter-blue-and-white Yorkshire rivals.
Already out of the League Cup and Johnstone's Paint Trophy (to Blackburn and Bradford respectively), Gary Megson sees the FA Cup differently, citing how its matches are built into the standard season, rather than in addition to it, as reason enough to take the competition seriously. In Morecambe his players will face a stern test. The Shrimps are in the play-off places of League Two and will be eager to test themselves in front of the ESPN cameras.
The Owls will be boosted by the return of Gary Madine. The striker has already scored 11 goals this season but missed the last two games because of a red card picked up in the defeat to Carlisle United. On the other hand, the news that impressive winger Ben Marshall will not be allowed to become cup-tied by parent club Stoke City leaves Wednesday fans edgy about the player's future at Hillsborough beyond January, when his current loan deal expires. For the immediate future, though, Megson will be focused on continuing Sheffield Wednesday's revival by progressing in the FA Cup. Tom Hocking