Sheffield Wednesday moved off the foot of the Championship table with a 0-0 draw with Millwall at Hillsborough on Saturday afternoon.
It capped a week in which the Owls secured 10 points, with three on the field on Tuesday night against previously unbeaten Bournemouth, followed by recovering half of their 12-point deduction following the verdict on their appeal the following evening.
They had chances to make it a perfect week but, having largely been the better side against Millwall, they couldn’t find the net, leaving manager Garry Monk to reflect on what might have been.
On the game
Wednesday had the upper hand for much of the match, creating some very good chances in the second half after a difficult first 45 minutes.
Their opponents had little in response and failed to register a shot on target in the whole match, leaving Monk satisfied with most elements of the game.
“Today we’ve dominated the game, especially in the second half,” he said. “Going into that changing room there’s some disbelief at how one of those chances hasn’t gone in and how we haven’t come away with the three points. We deserved the three points today.
“It was a different test today but we dominated that game and we created really good opportunities. If you’d said to us before the game ‘these are the opportunities you’re going to have’, we’d have snapped your fingers off for it.”
It was another frustrating day in front of goal, with Josh Windass, Adam Reach, Joey Pelupessy and Jack Marriott all denied by an inspired display from Millwall goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski.
The latest blank makes it just six goals scored in 11 matches this season, but Monk still insists that his forward men will start hitting the back of the net more regularly soon.
“They’re more than good enough to do be scoring goals,” he said. “They know that. Apart from that week, we’ve created enough chances in all the games to win.
“It will turn around, it can’t stay like this. Whether it’s a deflection, less good goalkeeping, more ruthlessness, or a cleaner hit, that will come. You see with strikers, and I’ve worked with a lot of them, they start to go on a roll and it starts to go for them.
“We got to the positions that we wanted to be in. We had the right build-up, we had the right play to get us those chances, and how one or two haven’t gone in I don’t know.”
On another clean sheet
It was a second shutout on the bounce for Wednesday, despite an ever-rotating cast at centre-back with injuries and suspensions keeping their rearguard in a constant state of flux over the past month.
Monk said: “I defy any team over the past couple of weeks with the disruption we’ve had to that backline, within games and before games, to not have some sort of effect.
“In that terrible week that we had (with three defeats in a row), we were making individual errors and all those things were creeping back in. In terms of the response that we needed, to show solidarity, two clean sheets prove that.”
On the week
Not many teams pick up 10 league points in one week, and there has been a sense of great relief with the upturn in form coinciding with the partially successful appeal of their points deduction. The win over Millwall lifted them off the bottom of the table, for the first time this season barring a couple of hours on Wednesday night.
“The players set themselves a target after the Wycombe game (last Saturday, a 1-0 defeat) of four points minimum, to show a response,” said Monk. “We know we should be sat here with six but with the six points back that’s 10 and we’re off the bottom of the league and moving in the right direction.
“Apart from the extra two points today which we know we should have got, I think it’s been a really good week for us. We’ve responded well with the performances we’ve had.
“We know it’s not where this club and our fans and ourselves want to be, but it’s definitely moving in the right direction with the hand that we’ve been dealt. It’s a positive change.”
On Julian Borner
The constant disruption to the defence in recent weeks has handed an opportunity to Borner, and he has impressed on the left side of their back three.
He was determined once again for Wednesday against Millwall, so much so he twice needed attention following head knocks.
Monk said of the German defender: “I think he’s been brilliant. I spoke to him about what I wanted more from him, in terms of concentration, (taking) that little bit of erraticness out of his game, and be more simple with (his play), still keeping the aggression that he has and that side of it, then we have a good defender.
“I wanted more of that earlier in the season but he’s put his head down, listened, gone about his work and got his opportunity. For me, the past three games are the best I’ve seen Julian play.”