Have to view it overall as a point won rather than two dropped as at the break we were behind and looking a bit ragged, especially as their No 11 seemed capable of running through us at will. No question we’d have taken the draw then. A better second half, the almost scripted equaliser from Igor just five minutes after he came off the bench, and we could have gone on to win. Equally, while Wednesday caused us fewer problems in the second half, they had a fair shout for a penalty late on (it was their lump of a centre-forward and the ref was closer to it than me) and may feel that but for one defensive lapse in concentration they would have left with all three points. So probably a fair result and a competitive, decent game played for the most part in good spirit.
With Vetokele and Gudmundsson unable to start, and Bulot in the treatment room, Peeters went for a sort of 4-3-3, with Tucudean playing alongside Moussa and Ahearne-Grant, Cousins, Jackson and the returning Buyens in midfield, while the defence picked itself as Solly and Wiggins were available. It was a set-up that put the emphasis on fluidity and precision going forward, against defenders who were always going to win the physical battles. That precision mostly eluded us, with passes in decent positions often not quite coming off.
The early phases seemed to be more about us having come out with the wrong studs on as players stumbled with the ball, creating danger. And we had an early warning of where the danger might come from as their winger flicked the ball beyond Wiggins and showed him a clean pair of heels. The cross was cleared but the writing was on the wall. To be fair to Wiggins, their guy had no problem going past any others that came up against him. Their lump had a header from a corner that might have been converted, we had a couple of reasonable shots from around the edge of the box. The first clear opening came our way as from a corner Cousins found himself unmarked around the far post with time to line up the header, but he failed to keep it below the bar.
With Semedo as competitive in midfield as we remember him the balance of play gradually swung Wednesday’s way, largely because we were unable to really string things together in the final third and as their winger just kept causing us problems. From one run he let loose a venomous shot that went just wide, but the next time he advanced with the ball and brushed aside challenges he struck the shot into the bottom corner, giving Henderson no chance, and we were behind.
The final 15 minutes or so of the first half (which was extended by a lengthy injury break as one of their guys was stretchered off) saw Wednesday more likely to extend their lead than us get a leveller. The lump was dealt with well enough by Ben-Haim and Bikey-Amougou (to the extent that when he realised the latter was challenging him in the air he focused more on trying to give Bikey an elbow than winning the ball) but the wingers were another matter. And on the stroke of half-time they nearly extended their lead in possibly controversial circumstances. Cousins seemed to be upended around their box but nothing was given (to be fair to the ref it was right in front of the linesman and he didn’t flag), they broke and with the ball played on their guy was through on Henderson, only to put the shot wide. If that one had gone in it would have been a long road back, whenever Vetekole came on.
Peeters did make a change at the break, bringing on Gudmundsson for Ahearne-Grant. He had been threatening but like the other two alongside him had struggled to retain possession. The change seemed more about giving us better ball retention, which Gudmundsson was to manage, although there was no real change of formation with the Icelander operating centrally. And after one glancing header from their centre-forward early in the second period we generally kept them under better control, with their wingers increasingly less effective. Perhaps Wednesday sat back a bit to protect the lead. Either way we began to have more and better possession and to push them back.
The change we were all waiting for came with about 20 minutes to go, with Vetokele replacing Moussa. He didn’t score with his first touch, but it wasn’t far off. The goal was really laid on a plate by outstanding work down the left by Wiggins. He wriggled his way through their defenders and as their others around seemed frozen Igor moved into position to convert the squared ball from around the penalty spot. It was the sort of chance that we had failed to create in the first half; Moussa and Ahearne-Grant must have looked on in disbelief. But there’s a knack to being in the right place at the right time and it’s no accident that he was there to score.
Then it was a case of whether either side could get the winner. Wednesday, despite replacing their No 11 for greater solidity (in the form of a rather lardy substitute), did cause some problems, but so did we. Jackson made a superb run on the blind side and was picked out by Buyens, only for this cut-back to find nobody. Solly hit one rasping effort just over the bar and Tucudean made a bit of a hash of a bicycle kick, only for the ball to bounce up and almost catch out their keeper, who turned it over the bar. After Wilson had replaced Jackson he put the ball in the net, but from a position that even hardened Addicks might have accepted was a tad offside. And the real chance to win the game fell to Vetekole who was played in but for once the first touch was a bit heavy and he ended up toe-poking the ball past the keeper but wide of the post.
As the clock ran down there was the Wednesday penalty appeal. Their centre-forward turned inside in the box and Bikey took a swing at the ball and missed it, going on to make contact with the lump. Whether it was a case of him seeing the leg and going over it or genuine contact made and a foul I couldn’t say, but it looked iffy. Again, the ref was a good deal closer and saw nothing amiss, so fine by me.
In the end neither side could make the breakthrough. We deserved something out of the game for the second half improvement; we dominated possession (helped by Ben Haim and Bikey taking it forward) and had the better chances. Wednesday will probably look back on a failure to kill the game off at the end of the first half, and the penalty appeal. So be it, we move on.
Henderson – 7/10. No chance with the goal and otherwise can’t remember him having to make a serious save.
Solly – 6/10. Still looked to me like the body language isn’t great, seemed a bit hangdog. Played his part in defence but we’re still waiting to see the previous assurance.
Wiggins – 7/10. Has to get an extra mark for the goal, which he laid on a plate for Vetekole. To say he was troubled by their winger is, however, an understatement; I suspect most full-backs would have been.
Ben Haim – 8/10. A couple of misplaced passes coming out of defence, but solid at the back and was instrumental in us keeping the pressure on them after the break with some astute runs forward.
Bikey-Amougou – 7/10. Still just have to love this guy, but it was a rash challenge in the box which might have resulted in a penalty.
Cousins – 7/10. Decent enough game, almost got through a couple of times, but really should have got that first-half header on target.
Buyens – 7/10. Effective, peach of a pass to pick out Jackson in the second half.
Jackson – 7/10. Consistent workrate as ever in a competitive game.
Moussa – 6/10. Plenty of effort, but an afternoon when he struggled to make a decisive contribution.
Ahearne-Grant – 6/10. Did look dangerous but collectively the front three in the first half didn’t gel as well as they might have.
Tucudean – 6/10. As with the other two. If only his mishit bicycle kick had gone in.
Subs – Gudmundsson (7/10 – instrumental in our better second-half showing, although not surprisingly a bit rusty); Vetekole (8/10 – we know what a difference he makes to us); Wilson (7/10 – only on for about 10 minutes).