Opposition View: Sheffield Wednesday writer on Darren Moore's progress and popularity among Owls faithful

The Darren Moore sideshow is unlikely to distract from this weekend’s South Yorkshire derby in which both teams are desperate for points for very different reasons.

By Paul Goodwin
Friday, 18th February 2022, 11:12 am
Darren Moore. Photo by George Wood/Getty Images
Darren Moore. Photo by George Wood/Getty Images

Moore returns to the home of Doncaster Rovers for the first time since he jumped ship with the club well placed to push for promotion.

Almost a year on, Rovers now find themselves staring down the barrel of a second relegation to League Two in the space of six years.

Moore’s Sheffield Wednesday side, meanwhile, are coming up on the rails in the race for promotion.

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We spoke to The Star’s Owls writer Alex Miller to get the lowdown on Wednesday and the impact that Moore has had at Hillsborough.

How do you assess where Sheffield Wednesday are at the moment in the promotion race and following the end of the transfer window?

Wednesday's response to a poor December has been largely excellent, with a tally of four wins on the spin having been achieved for the first time in nearly five years.

Defeat in a close-run thing against high-flying Rotherham United on Sunday was a blow, but the level of performance shown has given no cause for panic as they head into what they will see as a run of 'winnable' matches.

January was a good month for them too despite the exits of loanees Theo Corbeanu and Lewis Wing to MK Dons and Wycombe Wanderers respectively.

Harlee Dean was a player seen as the answer to their problems at centre-half, as has been Jordan Storey.

The addition of Tyreece John-Jules was a promising one and looked to rekindle Darren Moore' s relationship with him at Donny.

And then it went all Wednesday.

Dean and John-Jules are out for the foreseeable and are two of 10 players out injured.

How would you gauge Darren Moore's popularity among the Owls faithful at present?

It's been a rocky road on that front, but there is a feeling that the connection between Moore and Wednesday fans is improving quickly.

Injuries forced Moore's hand in having to play a number of players out of position, prompting questions from the terraces over a perceived stubbornness and a failure to get 'round pegs in round holes'.

But there have been signs that an identity is creeping into how Wednesday are going about things in recent weeks, helped by some big players coming back, and wins always help.

The expectation is very much on Wednesday to finish in the top six and they'll be hoping to barge their way back in there as soon as possible.

What type of football has Moore got the Owls playing?

The initial plan seemed to be based around a 4-2-3-1 system Donny fans will recognise from Moore. But the aforementioned injury crisis saw him change to a three-at-the-back system reliant on wing-backs.

Recent weeks have seen Wednesday play the ball about with a bit of a swagger, something they had really lost after a strong initial burst at the start of the season, with big players coming into form.

He wants the Owls to play good, front-foot football and a transition to that has been seen in the last few games.

What are Wednesday's strengths and weaknesses on the pitch?

Their strengths have ebbed and flowed all season. They've had periods of real stoic defending and periods it's looked like they could let one in at any stage.

But four clean sheets on the spin leading into the Rotherham game have shown the tide has turned a touch on that front.

They have an issue defending set pieces and are among the worst in the league by that metric, and have an ugly habit of switching off defensively at times.

Going forward, they've not been as clinical as their number chances might have hoped. When on-song they pass the ball well and break at speed.

Who are the players to look out for on Saturday?

Barry Bannan continues to be one of the division's very best and seems to be hitting a good run of form at current. Much will go through him.

Sam Hutchinson has been a revelation at centre half this season - his return to the side has coincided with their improved defensive form - but the man who makes them tick is midfield enforcer Massimo Luongo.

The Australian international has been in incredible form when he's been fit and allows those around him - most notably Bannan - to get more involved up top.

Beyond them, Nathaniel Mendez-Laing and Marvin Johnson are wide players who have shown real quality in recent weeks.