Cameron Dawson’s first-half reaction save was a rare moment of brilliance in an underwhelming FA Cup fifth-round tie, played out at a half-empty Hillsborough stadium (attendance 19,000).
There was – at least – some steel evident in the Owls performance, in a game that really was low on quality and excitement. Both teams made several changes, with Swansea bringing on big-hitters Jordan Ayew and Nathan Dyer in the second half – perhaps the only real sign that either team actually wanted to win and progress. The pair breathed a good five minutes of life into the game before it continued, in the same fashion as before, and petered out.
There were, however, reasons to be cheerful. After achieving their first league win under new manager Jos Luhukay last Tuesday – the first time opponents Derby had lost a league game since November – a much changed Wednesday side went toe-to-toe with one of the Premier League’s in-form (albeit lower quality) teams; the Owls having the better of the first half, Swansea the second.
That being said, Adam Reach really should have done better in second-half injury time, wasting a perfect opportunity in the Swans’ box when he chose to cross across goal rather than take a shot. Lucas João, despite a cute back-heel at the far post, was offside and the chance was gone.
There were once again wider issues to be considered regarding the value which clubs attribute to the FA Cup. This was a winnable game for Wednesday against one of the Premier League’s weaker teams; a chance to get in to the quarter-finals at the expense of a recently-departed manager. In years gone by, this sort of occasion would have had Hillsborough – and, indeed, most football grounds – rocking. Instead, we got an unexciting draw in a half-full stadium.
The Owls will, however, have another opportunity a week on Tuesday (27/02/17), when they visit the Liberty Stadium in the replay. With the team in a kind of Championship limbo, (9 points clear of relegation, 15 away from the playoffs) a quarter-final place is up for grabs: either a glamour-tie against Spurs, or the less shiny but more winnable prospect of Rochdale.
A date at Wembley does, potentially, beckon. But will Jos Luhukay feel that the replay is a match worth winning?