Sheffield Wednesday v Newcastle United Cheat Sheet
Sheffield Wednesday v Newcastle United
A fixture with history at the very top level of the English team, both Sheffield Wednesday and Newcastle United can now be considered among the juggernauts in their respective divisions.
It was a perfect festive period for Sheffield Wednesday, collecting nine points from a possible nine which included a 5-0 demolition of Cambridge United at Hillsborough. Those results extended the Owls long unbeaten even further, their last defeat inside 90 minutes coming at Plymouth Argyle back on the 4th October. Sheffield Wednesday entered this Third Round weekend sat in a desired automatic promotion place, the second best team in League One both home and away in 2022-23.
Newcastle United, sat inside the Premier League’s Champions League places ahead of the weekend, are at last in a position where a challenge for the FA Cup feels realistic. Since 2006, the Magpies have only once progressed beyond the Fourth Round Proper, suffering Third Round exits in nine out of the last 16 seasons. It was against League One Cambridge United that the heavily fancied Geordies exited the cup just 12 months ago. The team has certainly grown since, but this third tier opponent could be considered by some to be an even tougher test at a venue they are unbeaten at since the 3rd September 2022.
For a long period of time since the turn of the century, many people have turned to Newcastle United as a source of FA Cup Third Round shocks. The Magpies weak record at this stage of the competition has always been a clear frustration for fans who reluctantly acknowledge the decades-long period that Newcastle have now gone without major silverware.
Times have well and truly changed at St James’ Park however. Now more than a year under the era of their new, extremely rich owners, Eddie Howe’s side have merged steady, sensible transfer recruitment with a pursuit at the Premier League’s top places. European qualification feels a likely target, quite possibly for the UEFA Champions League, and with Newcastle’s desire to be among England’s elite will come a desire to win England’s premier cup competitions. The Magpies remain in the League Cup for now, and the FA Cup will undoubtedly be a desire as well.
A game against promotion-chasing Sheffield Wednesday provides the perfect opportunity to show how much Howe’s team have grown from the perceived cup pushovers of past seasons. Newcastle United fans now have much-wanted belief and do not fear anyone in the country, let alone a team 43 places lower in the football pyramid…
With 45 league goals, Sheffield Wednesday are the third-highest scorers in League One this season. 30 of those goals have come in home games, the clear most of anyone in the third tier. Darren Moore’s attack-heavy 3-4-1-2 is spearheaded by Michael Smith and Callum Paterson, attacking midfielder Josh Windass recently catching the eye with a hat-trick in the 5-0 win over Cambridge United. The absence of star midfielder Barry Bannan has presented an opportunity for the likes of George Byers, Will Vaulks and Fisayo Dele-Bashiru to showcase their individual qualities, with Marvin Johnson and Mallik Wilks providing width. The Owls have been blanked at Hillsborough just twice in 2022-23.
Whilst Newcastle’s most recent result demonstrated their aggressive robustness, the Magpies frontline needs no introduction. Callum Wilson or Chris Wood lead the line, supported by the revitalised Paraguayan Miguel Almirón, the entertaining Allan Saint-Maximin, and all-action forward-turned-midfielder Joelinton. The game against lower league opposition may present an opportunity for Elliot Anderson to play. The 20-year-old’s loan spell at Bristol Rovers last season was a huge success, looking like a Championship-level player who was operating at fourth tier level.
High quality attacks on both sides, and at a venue where the game’s underdogs are always a threat, it’s entirely possible that both teams could finish the match having scored at least once.
If Sheffield Wednesday are to hurt Newcastle United, their best hope could come from Michael Smith. The 31-year-old is the Owl’s top scorer this season with eight goals in League One and 11 in all competitions. The physical striker is a third tier promotion specialist, having climbed out of League One three times with previous club Rotherham United, hitting double figures in each of his two seasons prior to 2022-23. Smith’s height makes him an excellent target for crosses, often benefitting from playing in a strike partnership, much like the one he has in Darren Moore’s side. 44 of his 48 league shots this season have come from within the penalty area. Michael Smith is in turn Sheffield Wednesday’s penalty taker when present on the pitch.
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