It took less than two minutes for the Wednesday fans to make themselves heard over issues off the pitch, chants about chairman, Dejphon Chansiri, beginning shortly after the game kicked off. After all, there’s not much to sing about on the field.
In a game that often looked like a training game for West Brom there was more to be said about what happened in the stands for large parts of the tie. The hosts chanted Darren Moore’s name, ‘There’s only one Big Dave’ they sang, and before too long Marvin Johnson’s name emanated from the away end. The unregistered wideman is currently in Dubai working alone.
‘The fans fault? Financial mess? Destroying our heritage? Selling our home? Chansiri out!’ read one banner that briefly went up in the Smethwick End before being taken down, and calls for Xisco’s departure could be heard as well. Unhappiness is rife.
The Baggies dominated the early stages, running things on the ball as Jed Wallace set out his stall early, and within 13 minutes they were ahead. Akin Famewo, on the left of a back four for this one, mistimed his slide tackle on the West Brom captain and he was able to fire it past Devis Vasquez from close range. First blood, 1-0.
For a minor spell the Owls seemed to switch on, Juan Delgado slid in to try and connect with Ashley Fletcher’s cross but wasn’t quite there, and Tyreeq Bakinson was desperately unlucky as his long-range effort was brilliantly saved by Alex Palmer. There was life, but not for long.
Vasquez was called into action just after the half hour mark, saving well down low to keep out Okay Yokuslu, and behind the goal Wednesdayites’ gallows humour returned… “How s**t must you be, it’s only 1-0.” It wouldn’t be the last time it was sang.
By this point Carlos Corberan’s side had taken complete control once again, but they barely had to break sweat as the swept the ball about with ease. At half time the visitors had less than 30% possession once again, and amongst the cheers of the home crowd the jeers of those who’d travelled from Sheffield could be heard clearly.
No changes at the break, and no changes to the game’s momentum either. The Owls boss gave it about 15 minutes of almost consistent Albion pressure before making his first change, Pol Valentin coming on for Juan Delgado around the hour mark.
While the away end ramped up the noise with full renditions of Hi Ho Silver Lining and Honolulu Wednesday, and added a new one to their collection as Djeida Gassama’s surname was sung to the tune of The Champs’ Tequila as he was introduced to the fold. 1,919 of them made the trip, and they were going to try and enjoy themselves regardless.
It took until the 75th minute for the Owls to have a meaningful attack, Valentin bounding down the right before whipping in a dangerous cross – unfortunately it was cleared before anyone could get on the end of it. Straight afterwards Xisco delved into his bench for the final time, triple substitution incoming.
On came Jeff Hendrick and John Buckley for Will Vaulks and Bakinson, but more notably Mallik Wilks ran on in place of Anthony Musaba. He was in the squad for the first time since the opening day, and now on the pitch for the first time since early April.
In a turn of events that probably sums up the Owls’ luck this season, just moments after the substitutions had been made down went Famewo holding his groin. With Wednesday’s changes all made they’d have to continue with 10 men.
But they kept the Baggies at bay and even had some attacks of their own despite their numerical disadvantage, and in all honesty they looked a lot more solid than they had earlier in the week against Sunderland. Di’Shon Bernard and Dominic Iorfa had looked solid at centre back against a side that stuck four past Preston North End a few days ago, and Vaulks’ return did seem to steady the ship while he was on the pitch.
But it’s no consolation. The travelling support head back up to Sheffield still waiting for a win, still disenchanted with the state of their club, and in the knowledge that they’d just witnessed an Owls team start a league season with by going 10 without victory for the first time ever.
Two points out of 30 - it doesn’t look good.