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Sheffield Wednesday playing the playoff game beautifully

Tuesday 16th May 2017
Sheffield Wednesday went to Huddersfield Town and earned a 0-0 draw with a defensive display. They now welcome their Yorkshire rivals to Hillsborough. They have played the playoff game beautifully.

The playoffs are always a wonderfully unpredictable and unruly collection. Rarely do they go to plan and often do they produce moments of incredible drama. Remember when Troy Deeney scored just moments after Anthony Knockaert missed a penalty in Watford's playoff win over Leicester?
Navigating the playoffs is far from an easy and simple task. It requires a whole lot of luck and experience. And that is where Carlos Carvalhal is excelling. Entering the playoffs, Sheffield Wednesday were, marginally, seen as the favourites for promotion by the bookies, and after a final day loss to Fulham saw them face a stumbling Huddersfield side at the semi-final stage, were well backed by many in the media.

It was thought to be a favourable draw, even with such little between all of the teams, and many in the Sheffield circles were confident that a second trip to Wembley in as many years was on the cards. But after a pummeling in the first leg, such hopes have since dwindled somewhat. Well, here's why Carvalhal is acing his second run at the playoffs.

Wednesday travelled north to Huddersfield on Sunday afternoon. It was a game that was in the balance but, given that David Wagner's team have not beaten them in seven attempts previously, it was, tentatively, expected that a win was in the offing. That was not to be the case.

The 0-0 scoreline perhaps suggests that it was an even game between the two promotion hopefuls. But that would belie the truth. A quick glance at the match stats would reveal a far more accurate depiction of the tie. Huddersfield enjoyed 69% of the possession, had 12 shots to Wednesday's three, two of which were on target, and engineered eight corners in comparison to just one for their visitors.

And it was, in large part, thanks to Kieran Westwood and some heroic defending that Wednesday were able to keep the tie within reach. And yet, read Carvalhal's post-match comments, and it almost seems as if that was his exact plan:

"It is a positive result. If you go away in the play-off semi-final and you return to play the home game at 0-0, it is very, very positive. At the end of the day, the most important thing is the semi-final is open, we must now play at Hillsborough and we have good expectations."

To call a 0-0 hammering a positive result seems like an odd statement to make. But for Carvalhal and his hopeful navigation of the turbulent playoffs, he wants to rely on the strength of his side: their home form. Wednesday won 15 of their 23 home games, including a 2-0 win over Huddersfield back in January.

Hillsborough is one of the toughest grounds to go to in the whole of the football league. The crowd is loud and vociferous, there is a heavy air in and around the ground, and the team always play with a great intensity and energy. Wednesday will be at their busiest when Huddersfield are welcomed in, and Carvalhal knows it. That is why he is so glowing about a 0-0 draw. He's playing the playoff game beautifully.
Andrew Dowdeswell

A sport obsessed 20 something who just really wants Arsenal to finally win the league. Please Wenger, what the hell happened to you?!


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