Sheffield Wednesday one of many form teams
31 March ~ Having beaten relegation-rivals Barnsley in a tense Yorkshire derby on Saturday, you'd think Sheffield Wednesday fans would be breathing a sigh of relief. However, coming out of Hillsborough to discover Peterborough had beaten league-leaders Cardiff and Wolves had won against Middlesbrough simply confirmed the relentless pace being set by all the teams attempting to escape relegation from the Championship this season. There is less a feeling of joy at winning and more one of dread at what would’ve happened if we’d lost.
The Barnsley match was a nervy affair. The first half showed why both teams are at the wrong end of the table; lots of hard work but the few openings carved out were more down to luck than design. In the second half the first move of genuine quality resulted in Gary Madine getting on the end of a Lewis Buxton cross and Wednesday going 1-0 up, probably slightly against the run of play.
Twelve minutes later and a Miguel Llera free kick was lofted into the Barnsley penalty area where the visitors made the mistake of leaving Réda Johnson unmarked. Having put themselves 2-0 up with just over ten minutes remaining Wednesday proceeded to miss a penalty, have Buxton sent off and concede a goal before seeing out a nail-biting six minutes of injury time that felt like another 90.
Wednesday have lost just four times in 17 matches, promotion form, but they have not been the only ones. Peterborough are unbeaten in six and it has taken a run of just four defeats in 18 to drag them out of the relegation zone on goals scored. Wolves have won three of their last four but actually slipped down the division in that time while Barnsley had beaten play-off chasers Brighton and Watford before losing to Wednesday.
Three points separate Blackpool in 17th with Barnsley in 23rd and the out of form teams in that group – Blackburn in particular – will be getting increasingly nervous. It has taken 50 points or more to survive in this division on only five occasions since 1989-90, the highest being the 52 reached by Leicester in 2008 and Millwall in 1996. With seven or eight games to go and Barnsley already on 44, it’s conceivable that wouldn’t be enough this time.
It's under this pressure that Wednesday travel to the only team that may actually feel cut adrift in the Championship on Monday; Bristol City. The Robins find themselves bottom of the league and six points away from safety after having the nerve to lose two games in their last six. The previous meeting between the teams at Hillsborough saw the Owls blow a 2-1 lead in the last five minutes and fall to a seventh straight defeat. It was a result that many thought would cost Dave Jones his job but he survived, Wedneday beat Barnsley at Oakwell in their next match and have improved since.
With the other Monday games including Barnsley hosting Leicester, Wolves travelling to in-form Birmingham, Blackburn at Cardiff, Blackpool hosting another top-end team – Crystal Palace – and Peterborough playing Middlesbrough on Tuesday, on paper it looks like an ideal opportunity for Wednesday to give themselves a bit of breathing space. But expecting a set of logical results is fairly futile in the Championship at the moment, so all Wednesday can do is win their game and hope they come out to hear there has been a shock elsewhere – a team near the bottom of the league has actually lost. Tom Hocking