MORE REPORTS AND REACTION
Don't throw the towel in!
SHEFFIELD Wednesday today began a "rest cure" after their shock 4-0 defeat at Mansfield - with Paul Sturrock shouldering the blame for last night's weary performance.
The Owls manager has admitted "I got it wrong" and apologised to the Owls fans who made up almost half the Field Mill crowd of 3,665.
He pinpointed tiredness as the root cause of the flop and believes that he should have rested players instead of relying largely on the ones who arrived back from an unbeaten tour of the US only two days earlier.
Sturrock has now promised the squad a "quiet" build-up to Saturday's final major friendly, against Middlesbrough at Hillsborough, in the hope that they will soon be refreshed.
He said: "You have to give credit to Mansfield for their performance. But I think I got it wrong. Coming back from America, I debated whether to use the first team for this game or the kids. I went with the first team, and it was the leggiest team you ever saw. That's no excuse for the lack of attitude some of them showed. I can only apologise to the fans. People know some of the players are quality players. They didn't show it. The players are very disappointed with themselves. They were very quiet. This is a real slap in the face to everybody at the club.
"I'm very disappointed with the way people didn't push themselves when they were tired. I was amazed at some of the individual performances. But I must put my hand up and say I got it wrong, no excuses."
But he praised some of members of his team: "The goalkeeper (Chris Adamson] did ok; Steve MacLean showed a good attitude ; Yoann Folly got better as the game went on. Sometimes it's too easy to blame tiredness - but it did show in players' performances. I know my players. That was not the real Wednesday."
Sturrock said setbacks in pre-season friendlies are not necessarily an accurate guide towards teams' League prospects: "At Dundee United we went to Germany in pre-season, and we didn't win one of eight pre-season friendlies e We won the title that year."
He is not saying Wednesday will top the Championship but he is convinced that last night's display was far from being characteristic of his squad's true abilities.
Jet-lagged Owls put to the sword
EXACTLY 1,644 Wednesday fans started out in the Field Mill crowd last night but many left before the end and clearly regarded it as a wasted journey.
They can only hope that this performance by the Owls is not a true reflection of how the team is shaping up, with the new Championship season only nine days away.
Wednesday looked a jaded outfit as they were outgunned by a lively Mansfield side.
It seemed that the US tour had taken its toll: thousands of miles of flying, three American games in 10 days, double training sessions most days and a 21-hour return journey to England on Monday.
They Owls were lethargic in the first half last night; they showed more urgency at the start of the second half, but they were run ragged in the last quarter of an hour and looked out on their feet by the end.
Paul Sturrock accepted full responsibility for not resting the bulk of his first team, but in fairness to him, it must be said that his options were cut down by the club's injuries, and there were already five youngsters on the bench.
The Owls weren't without chances, with Steve MacLean and Burton O'Brien failing with first-half headers, but Mansfield had their own opportunities, Chris Adamson made a couple of goods tops, and Richie Barker fired home a 23rd minute penalty awarded for a push by Deon Burton on Matt Hamshaw.
Mansfield striker Simon Brown caused problems with pacey, diagonal runs behind the Owls defence.
Among many Stags strikes at goal in the 90 minutes, he brought one great save from Adamson.
Wednesday's most spectacular effort was a terrific 25-yard strike by Lee Bullen which missed the post by a hair's breadth, in the 48th minute.While it was hard to pick out Owls highlights, Yoann Folly showed a sense of responsibility and maybe lasted the course better than anyone, and Glenn Whelan backed up his vow to fight for a place by grafting hard after going on as a sub.
Mansfield looked the fresher and more accomplished team, and as a prelude to a late goal rush sub Stephen Dawson hit the post in the 75th minute.
Another switch by Wednesday from 4-4-2 to 3-1-4-2 failed to turn the tide: this time it was Folly in front of a back three of Tommy Spurr, Frank Simek and Graham Coughlan.
The scoreline became a bit embarrassing in the last 12 minutes: Dawson finished a breakaway with a shot into the bottom corner, Barker headed home a corner by Hamshaw, who was declared Mansfield's Man of the Match, and midfield player Jonathan D'Laryea forced home goal number four.
Wednesday tested Stags keeper Carl Muggleton a few times - chiefly through Burton, MacLean and Chris Brunt - but the Owls were not very convincing going forward, as well as leaking too many goals.
Beware drawing too many conclusions from pre-season friendlies.
Wednesday can and surely will do better, once they have freshened themselves up.
MANSFIELD: Muggleton; Mullins, Hjelde (Buxton 64), John-Baptiste, Jelleyman; Hamshaw (Lloyd 84), D'Laryea, Coke (Dawson 72), Boulding (Birchall 67); Brown (Reet 83), Barker (Beardsley 84).
OWLS: Adamson; Simek, Bougherra (Spurr 58), Coughlan, Bullen; Brunt, Lunt (McAllister 74), Folly, O'Brien (Whelan 58); MacLean, Burton (Graham 58). Unused: McArdle, Boden, O'Donnell.
Goals: Barker (23 pen, 84), Dawson (78), D'Laryea (89).
Latest | July 2006