Basement battlers Sheffield Wednesday and Derby lock horns in Friday night's live Championship fare. Mark O'Haire shares his favourite fancy...
"Whilst, County have tended to toil at Pride Park, Wayne Rooney’s outfit have earned 53% of their point tally on their travels (W3-D3-L4)"
Sheffield Wednesday v Derby
Friday January 1, 17:30
Wednesday clinch vital victory
Sheffield Wednesday's players put financial worries and Tony Pulis' sacking behind them as they beat 2-1 Middlesbrough under the temporary stewardship of first-team coach Neil Thompson on Tuesday night. Callum Paterson gave the Owls a first-half lead and Liam Shaw doubled the advantage soon after some excellent skill by skipper Barry Bannan.
Boro pulled a goal back soon after the break at Hillsborough, while the Teessiders hit the woodwork as they tried in vain to snatch a point, spurning a host of second-half chances. Wednesday were ultimately out-shot 21-5 but held onto secure a vital victory, scoring twice or more on home soil for the first time in Championship football since December 2019.
The Owls had been plunged into crisis with the news players had not been paid their full November wages, swiftly followed by the sacking of Pulis less than 24 hours before the match after just 10 games in charge. Nevertheless, Thompson was delighted with his team's application, particularly with both Joost Van Aken and Adam Reach missing out with injury.
Derby demolish sorry Birmingham
Derby's resurgence under Wayne Rooney's guidance continued in midweek as the Rams romped to a 4-0 thrashing of Birmingham. The Blues suffered a defensive nightmare at St Andrew's, shipping three disastrous goals inside the first 25 minutes with Krystian Bielik, Graeme Shinnie and Colin Kazim-Richards all taking advantage of the erroneous hosts.
Home keeper Neil Etheridge dropped a clanger, Harlee Dean gave away a needless penalty and dreadful defending from a corner put County in pole position, and youngster Jason Knight completed the scoring after 77 minutes when he neatly tucked away Kamil Jozwiak's right-wing cross for Derby's biggest away league win Boxing Day 2014.
The Rams moved out of the Championship's bottom three for the first time in two months as they won the shots on-target count 9-1 in a commanding display. Post-match, Rooney said: "That performance has been coming over the last few weeks. I'm delighted for the players. I'm starting to see a team that believe in themselves. The confidence is growing."
Sheffield Wednesday are winless in their past four meetings with Derby (W0-D2-L2) and suffered a 3-1 reverse here in the duos most recent head-to-head back in February 2020. The Owls have actually only taken top honours twice in their last 22 league match-ups with County (W2-D8-L12) going back to 2006, although both victories came here since 2017.
Sheffield Wednesday 3.2011/5 have triumphed in only six of their most recent 24 Championship outings at Hillsborough (W6-D11-L11) and were arguably second-best during their midweek success here. Goals were few and far between in 2020, with the home side scoring a paltry 14 goals in 23 fixtures across all competitions in their own back yard.
Derby's 2.546/4 Boxing Day defeat was their first in eight (W3-D4-L1) league fixtures with the Rams recording four successive shutouts before shipping a stoppage-time goal against Preston. Whilst, County have tended to toil at Pride Park, Wayne Rooney's outfit have earned 53% of their point tally on their travels (W3-D3-L4), adopting a pragmatic approach.
Friday night's fixture between Sheffield Wednesday and Derby pits together two of the three teams involved in the fewest goals per-game in Championship this term. Matches featuring the Owls are averaging only 1.68 goals, whilst County's contests are posting just 1.76 strikes on average. Collectively, 9/43 (21%) games saw Under 2.5 Goals 1.564/7.
With entertainment expected to be in short supply, particularly with points favoured over stylistically qualities during a hectic period of the campaign, plus the significance of an early six-pointer at the bottom end of the standings, I'm happy to oppose goals once more whilst also keeping the revived Rams onside.
1.9520/21 is available to support Derby in the Double Chance market alongside Under 2.5 Goals at Hillsborough, a selection that's paid out in six of County's past eight encounters, with Wayne Rooney's outfit keeping their sheets clean in five of those most recent six outings.
Mark's 2020/21 Profit/Loss
Staked: 71.00 pts
Returned: 75.77 pts
P/L: +4.77 pts