Varney Rescues Deserved Point For Owls
Ashton Gate, Bristol
31 October 2009, 15:00
It was a tale of to two ex-Crewe strikers at Ashton Gate today as Wednesday's Luke Varney cancelled out his former strike partner Nicky Maynard's opener.
City went into the game as hot favorites on the back of two wins and an 18-game unbeaten run at the Gate whilst the Owls were ravaged by illness and injury whilst still reeling from a 4-1 drubbing by Watford live on the Sky camera's last weekend. It all pointed to a home banker.
As expected, City manager Gary Johnson made only the one change with Cole Skuse taking the injured Bradley Orr's place at right wing-back in an otherwise unchanged team from last week's 3-2 win at Barnsley.
But it was Wednesday who started the brightest with ex-Ipswich midfielder Tommy Miller forcing Dean Gerken into an alert save from his stinging, low drive from 20-yards after only 2 minutes.
Marcus Tudgay then combined well with Varney in the City box on 8 with Varney hitting the post only to be denied by a linesman's flag on the far side.
City were sluggish and slow to come out of the traps but Marvin Elliott nearly have us the lead against the run of play with a header from Danny Haynes' cross, but he could only fire straight at Lee Grant. A yard either side and we would have been celebrating!
Nicky Maynard produced a smart turn and shot from the edge of the box that Grant got down to smartly before the livewire Jermaine Johnson struck wide off the post at the other end.
The first half's real drama came in the dying moments of the first period though.
Lewin Nyatanga produced a brilliant tackle to stop Varney from having a clear chance on goal and Louis Carey came from nowhere to fantasticly block Johnson's tap-in at the far stick.
In truth, we were extremely lucky to go into the break with the scores still level as Wednesday had carved out the better chances.
With that in mind, it came as no surprise that Gary Johnson rang the changes at half time. He replaced his inept son Lee with Paul Hartley - a change that was both being called for by the East End during the first half and should have been in place from the start - whilst Alvaro Saborio replaced Louis Carey, who took a whack in the first 45.
That meant a change of formation. Johnson switched from the 3-5-2 to a 4-3-3 with Haynes pushed wider on the right to accomodate Saborio and almost immediately it paid dividends.
Hartley pinged a quickly taken free-kick 60-yards up field to Maynard, whose first touch was excellent, but was caught between the two Owls centre backs.
But on 59 minutes the goal the game so craved arrived.
In a goal-mouth scramble, Saborio and Maynard competed for the same ball before it popped loose for Maynard to lift over Grant from eight yards for his TENTH goal of the season.
Straight after that, Evander Sno sent a curler just round the post as City sought to kill off the visitors.
Leon Clarke, on for Tommy Miller by this point, hustled his way into the box before testing Gerken with an angled drive which he could only palm away but the equaliser was coming and so it arrived on 75.
Tudgay sent Luke Varney racing through on goal and, despite appearing to have hold of Nyatanga's shirt, Maynard's ex-strike partner kept his composure to rifle a clinical, low drive past Gerken for a deserved leveller.
Moments later, the lively Varney sent a low drive fizzing across goal from a seemingly impossible angle, which Gerken was adjudged to brilliantly have tipped wide.
City responded with Haynes firing straight at Grant from distance and Elliott heading over from McAllister's deep cross from the left.
Then in the dying moments, Evander Sno hit a swerving rocket of a shot from the edge of the area which Grant did well to keep out before Leon Clarke almost won with a delicate chip that produced another fine save from Gerken.
CITY 3-5-2: Gerken, Carey (Saborio 46), McCombe, Nyatanga, Skuse, Elliott, L. Johnson (Hartley 46), Sno, McAllister, Haynes (Sproule 80), Maynard.
OWLS 4-5-1: Grant, Simek, Hinds, Buxton, Spurr, Miller (Clarke 65), Porter, O'Connor, J. Johnson, Varney, Tudgay.
REFEREE: Fred Graham (Essex)
Another excellent and assured performance from the local-lad, despite playing out of position to accomodate others. Coming on at rate of knots at the moment and one of the first names on the team sheet.
Dean Gerken 8
Cole Skuse 8
Jamie McAllister 6
Lewin Nyatanga 7
Jamie McCombe 5
Louis Carey 7
Evander Sno 7
Lee Johnson 3
Marvin Elliott 7
Nicky Maynard 8
Danny Haynes 7
Paul Hartley 7
Alvaro Saborio 5
Ivan Sproule 5
Got his team selection wrong with the inclusion of his boy at the expense of Hartley but at least showed bottle to correct it at the break. We looked unorganised and disjointed for long periods though and seriously lacking width. Needs to tinker slightly with his line-up.
I was impressed with Laws. He was down to the bare bones with his squad but has his side set up to hit us on the counter and he was tactically spot on. On another day, Wednesday would've scored 3 or 4 if luck had gone their way.
A Point Gained, Not Two Lost
Fans will undoubtedly view this as two points lost, but in the context of the game and how we played today it should definitely be viewed as a point gained.
We could've and should've lost by 3 or 4 goals to 1 on another day.
That's not a criticism of the boy, he's one of my favourite players, but his 9 other goals have been exquisite finishes from half chances and he's been missing the tap-in's.
We're not even into November yet and the striker looks odds-on to fire 20+ this year, if he can avoid injury.
I just pray to God that we can keep hold of him for as long as possible because he's the best striker we've had in a very long time.