Wednesday came flying out of the blocks at the whistle, within a minute they had their first corner thanks to some lovely play down the left side including the returning Marvin Johnson. ‘Neymarv’ was back in the XI for the first time since Wembley, and immediately he seemed determined to try and make up for lost time.
The visitors, who came to Hillsborough on the back of a five-game winless run, repelled the Owls’ early attacks though – and via a couple of low balls through the middle caused a bit of trouble of their own.
Early big challenges from George Byers and Dominic Iorfa set the tone inside the stadium, a stadium that didn’t feel like that of a side rooted to the bottom of the Championship, and Danny Röhl’s name was chanted from the stands once again.
Out wide Anthony Musaba and Djeidi Gassama both had the crowd on their feet, however in the early stages there were no major chances to talk about for either side. The best fell to Zian Fleming who found himself by the penalty spot about to pull the trigger – only to see Di’Shon Bernard come sliding in to pinch it off his toes with a tackle that he absolutely had to get right.
Wednesday certainly weren’t looking like a team with one win all season, and it looked like they might take the lead after Barry Bannan followed up a lung-bursting run from midfield with a slipped ball through to Musaba. His first touch was good, but his second – a strike – was blazed into the Leppings Lane End.
As is so often the case, it was a missed chance they’d rue. Moments later the Lions won a corner, and largely unchallenged it was Murray Wallace that rose highest to give them the lead. Undeserved, probably. Uncommon, unfortunately not.
The goal – just after the half hour mark – seemed to rattle the hosts, and from looking confident and attacking they seemed vulnerable as the pendulum swung the way of Joe Edwards’ outfit.
Any momentum that Wednesday had built up was gone, and the stuffing had well and truly been knocked out of them. Their solidity had gone, and clumsiness crept in – Millwall pressed on as they knocked on the door for a second.
And it didn’t take long to get it. George Saville was given the freedom of Hillsborough to sort out his body shape after a cross into the box was cleared, and while his strike was fierce – and perfectly placed – the complaint will be that he shouldn’t have had the chance to take it. 2-0, and the uphill battle had become a mountain to climb.
After being booed off at half time it felt as though a change would come for the Owls, and Röhl wasn’t going to waste any time. Teenager striker, Bailey Cadamarteri, was thrown on for his first league outing, while Josh Windass and Jeff Hendrick also came on – Byers, Gassama and Ashley Fletcher made way.
But Wednesday’s hopes for a comeback didn’t last long, and within seven minutes they were 3-0 down. A cross into the box was only half dealt with by Dawson, who spilt it to the feet of Wes Harding, the Millwall man firing home from close range to make it three.
For those not watching the scoreline may have looked like a whitewash, but it wasn’t that the hosts didn’t have chances – it was that they failed to take them.
Cadamarteri could’ve had a goal on his league debut if not for an excellent save from Bartosz Bialkowski, and the Lions goalkeeper was at it again to keep out Callum Paterson as well. Two loud shouts for handball were turned away, and the visitors made some big blocks in big positions. Something Wednesday seemingly weren’t able to do.
When Brooke Norton-Cuffy picked up the ball by the edge of the box he waltzed past Musaba without breaking a sweat before arrowing it into the far corner, and before their celebrations began the seats at S6 were already emptying out. The fans had seen enough.
Though the progress made under Röhl is still clear to be seen, the passages of play and chance creation make that clear, it was the gulf in quality at both ends of the field that shone through in the bitter Hillsborough chill on Saturday.
That 18-year-old Cadamarteri was a small bright spark in the second half was telling, and as the boos rang around Hillsborough at the final whistle it will no doubt have been another reminder for Röhl of the size of the job that he’s taken on.
Rock bottom Wednesday are now nine points off safety, and we’re inching closer to miracle territory as the Owls head into an international break that will feel that little bit longer on the back of another heavy defeat.