Sheffield Wednesday got off to the perfect start under Garry Monk, defeating Huddersfield Town 2-0 on the road and opening Danny Cowley’s eyes to the task at hand in West Yorkshire.
Both sides were entering this Yorkshire derby with new men at the helm, but it was Monk – on his quick return to the Championship – who came out on top, thanks to goals from Steven Fletcher and Sam Winnall, to continue Wednesday’s steady start.
There was a buzz around the John Smith’s Stadium prior to kick-off, with a busy Cowley casting a watchful eye over his new side’s warm-up. As Town filtered to different stations and were barked instructions from Danny’s Brother, Nicky, the fans erupted to greet their new boss.
Of course, it has been a sluggish start to the season for Town. They have won just once in 2019, suffered relegation and now find themselves battling in the Championship’s bottom three.
The noise and love for the Cowley brothers continued as the teams entered the field, giving a sense that this regime might bring some positivity back to West Yorkshire.
However, pre-match’s positivity was soon gone, with Fletcher heading Wednesday into a 1-0 lead in the 10th minute – his fourth goal in seven and third in three games.
The lively Kadeem Harris found space on the left with ease, before floating an excellent cross onto the head of Fletcher, who couldn’t miss, firing beyond Kamil Grabara. Monk cutting a relaxed figure in the dugout. Cowley deep in thought.
As we’ve become familiar with watching Garry Monk sides, they soaked up pressure and defended their lead well, countering when possible as Barry Bannan pulled the strings.
Terence Kongolo got forward for Town on one occasion before lashing over. The makeshift left-back then forced a save out of Keiren Westwood with a fierce drive on 35 minutes.
A moment later was probably Town’s best chance, though. Florent Hadergjonaj found himself on the end of a cross from the left, but Westwood easily dealt with his tame header.
In fact, that header probably summed up Cowley’s first 45 minutes in-charge. Lacking punch, as Wednesday headed into the break leading.
There was a little bit more fight about Huddersfield as the second-half kicked off, with Cowley looking to use Adama Diakhaby’s pace to good effect down the right.
Town’s best chance came from the left, though, after an advanced Kongolo was picked out and his low effort forced a good save from Westwood.
Cowley had turned to his bench in the form of Isaac Mbenza and Juninho Bacuna, but more clear-cut chances evaded the Terriers.
Adam Reach’s influence grew in the No.10 position as the game approached the hour, before he shifted wide to accommodate Winnall.
And, after a flurry of yellow cards for both sides, Winnall settled the contest.
Bannan – superb throughout – joined the breaking attack and curled a beautiful cross from the left the way of the substitute, who glanced a header beyond Grabara to send the Wednesday fans into scenes of joy.
Cowley would introduce Steve Mounie as his last sub, but Wednesday continued to cause his side problems.
Reach went close again with a driving effort from the edge of the area, before Fletcher almost slid home a Liam Palmer cross.
That was to be one of Fletcher’s last acts as Atdhe Nuhiu replaced him – Monk must be delighted to arrive and see the Scot in such fine form.
Chris Wood got his goals at Leeds, Britt Assombalonga at Middlesbrough and Che Adams at Birmingham. If Fletcher can maintain this, who knows where Monk can take Wednesday, particularly with the support act of Winnall from the bench.
Whilst Wednesday will be firmly looking up under Monk, this was a rude awakening for what Cowley has walked into at Huddersfield. Town offered little at 2-0 down, as the John Smith’s Stadium emptied and the Owls continued to create chances. That pre-match buzz a distant memory.
Work to be done for the Cowley brothers. Work to continue for Monk and Wednesday.
FULL-TIME: Huddersfield Town 0-2 Sheffield Wednesday.