Throughout the second half of the 2018/19 season, millwallfc.co.uk will be analysing The Lions' opponents by taking a look back at their campaign so far. As we prepare to host Sheffield Wednesday at The Den in the Sky Bet Championship, we analyse The Owls’ results so far this term.
Following last campaign’s underwhelming 15th-place Championship finish, Jos Luhukay began his first pre-season as Sheffield Wednesday boss with positive ambitions for the months ahead. The Dutchman narrowed down a huge squad with the departures of Ross Wallace, Glenn Loovens and Jack Hunt among others, as well as allowing Jordan Rhodes to join Norwich City on loan. Josh Onomah and Michael Hector were brought in on temporary deals, with key players Lucas Joao and Barry Bannan penning new contracts at Hillsborough. Wednesday began pre-season with two 1-0 victories over Lincoln City and Dutch outfit NAC Breda, before being defeated by Mansfield Town and Villarreal.
The 2018/19 campaign began on a note far from ideal for Luhukay’s side, as Wigan Athletic ran out 3-2 winners over The Owls on the opening weekend at the DW Stadium. Wednesday registered their first point on the board the following weekend with a 1-1 home draw with Hull City, before dispatching Sunderland in the First Round of the Carabao Cup with a comfortable 2-0 away victory. Returning to Championship action, Wednesday were beaten again at Brentford by a 2-0 scoreline, ahead of a home contest with Neil Harris’ Millwall at Hillsborough. A Bannan rocket and a strike by Tom Lees was enough to see the hosts over the line for their first win of the season, despite Ryan Tunnicliffe pulling a goal back for The Lions in the second half. Another 2-1 home success – this time against Ipswich Town – lifted the South Yorkshire side to 14th in the table, before August ended with a 2-0 Carabao Cup reverse by Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Wednesday’s first victory on the road arrived to open September, coming out on top over Reading by two goals to one to rise into the top half of the table. A 2-2 share of the spoils with Stoke City at Hillsborough was then followed by a narrow 2-1 defeat at Nottingham Forest, before an impressive away win at Villa Park by the same scoreline. The Owls rounded off the month with a 1-1 draw on home soil against Leeds United, ending the month in 12th.
After letting a 2-0 lead slip late on against West Bromwich Albion to settle for a 2-2 draw, Wednesday recovered and secured another three points on the road with a 2-1 triumph at Bristol City. A frustrating run of form would then ensue for Luhukay’s team, in which they would pick up just one point from their forthcoming six League matches. This included three straight defeats for the remainder of the month, against Middlesbrough (1-2), QPR (3-0) and Birmingham City (3-1).
With just four games in November, every point was crucial in the Championship. Having entered the autumn in 15th, Wednesday lost their fourth successive game as Norwich City ran out 4-0 winners at Hillsborough. A crucial penalty save and a terrific defensive display by The Owls in the following week’s Steel City derby at Sheffield United secured a creditable 0-0 stalemate with the promotion hopefuls, before a 2-1 home reverse by Derby County. After registering their first win since early October in their final game of November against Bolton by a solitary goal, Wednesday entered December in 14th.
Luhukay looked to give Wednesday a surge in form as the club approached a vital point in the campaign, but The Owls were beaten again in their opening fixture of December as Blackburn Rovers won 4-2 at Ewood Park. After a frustrating 2-2 home draw with Rotherham United in a South Yorkshire derby clash, a 2-1 comeback win for Swansea City over Wednesday was to prove the final nail in the coffin for the Dutchman at the helm, dismissed prior to the team’s final game before Christmas. In his place came interim manager Steve Agnew, with Steve Bruce to be officially appointed on February 1st. Under Agnew’s stewardship, fortunes turned for The Owls, securing successive 1-0 wins over Preston and Middlesbrough, and coming incredibly close to a third before settling for a 1-1 draw at West Brom to round off 2018.
Wednesday secured reinforcements in January, bringing in Dominic Iorfa from Wolves for an undisclosed fee, along with Newcastle duo Rolando Aarons and Achraf Lazaar on loan deals until the end of the campaign. A 1-1 New Year’s Day draw with Birmingham City got 2019 underway, before a home stalemate with Luton Town in the Third Round of the Emirates FA Cup. The replay came following a 3-0 League defeat at Hull City, with Wednesday taking a 1-0 victory from the home of the League One leaders to set up a glamour tie at Chelsea in the Fourth Round. Yet another sole-goal win – this time over Wigan Athletic – closed January in the Championship, before Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea claimed a 3-0 win over The Owls at Stamford Bridge. Bruce officially took the reins as February began, claiming a last-minute win at Ipswich Town with the team’s sixth 1-0 win of the season, before last weekend’s goalless draw at home against Reading. The South Yorkshiremen currently sit 16th in The Championship going into Tuesday night’s encounter at The Den.