This weekend, Sheffield Wednesday face Port Vale in the league for the first time since their 2004/05 promotion season in which Paul Sturrock’s side were victorious in the League One playoffs. In that campaign, The Owls did the double over Saturday’s hosts and this time around Wednesdayites will be hoping it’s a similar story.
Vale know a thing or two about the playoffs themselves, having been promoted through them last season, beating Mansfield Town 3-0 in the League Two finale at Wembley. Since their return to the third tier, Darrell Clarke’s men have had a steady start, with three wins, three draws and four defeats from their first 10 leaving them in 15th place. Most recently, Vale found themselves on the wrong end of a Peterborough side hungry to end their bad run and were demolished 3-0 by the League One promotion-chasers. However, that result is not an accurate indictment of their season, as The Valiants prove a much sterner test for some of the other top teams in the division, with Barnsley unable to get the better of Clarke’s team in a 1-1 draw whilst 2nd place Pompey only narrowly edged Port Vale by a goal to nil.
Wednesday’s next opponents have the weaponry to cause damage to any side in this division, none more menacing than striker Ellis Harrison. The 28-year-old knows where the back of the net is at this level having bagged 40 League One goals in his career and already has a healthy ratio this term with five goals. The Welshman joined Vale Park this summer after chipping in with 6 goals in 18 appearances at Fleetwood towards the end of last season to help them marginally avoid the drop.
Ben Garrity is another name The Owls need to watch out for come 3pm Saturday. The midfielder was a vital part of Clarke’s promotion-winning team, scoring 12 times in his maiden season with the club. After impressing in the fourth division, Garrity is already off the mark this year and will be keen to show his quality at a higher level.
Speaking of showing quality, one Vale player who did just that was winger Dennis Politic, who struck a hattrick last week against Shrewsbury Town in the Papa John’s Trophy. The former Manchester United youth player, had previously enjoyed a loan stint with The Valiants at the beginning of last season, scoring twice in 10 appearances before making a move to Italian second-tier side Cremonese. The former Romanian under 17s international rejoined Vale on loan this summer having struggled for minutes in Italy and will be looking to translate his scoring-touch into the league.
Despite the home side’s danger men, this is one that Darren Moore’s team should really be looking to take maximum points from. The Owls overcame what is often a stubborn Wycombe team last weekend, in a game that Wednesday deservedly won. However, it was these types of away fixtures, against teams towards the bottom half of League One like Port Vale, which proved a stumbling block for the Yorkshire club last year.
On the injury front, Barry Bannan is in full training and looks to have shaken off any slight knocks he was thought to have picked up against Wycombe. Ben Heneghan gave a solid showing in his return to the lineup last week and will give Wednesday some much needed presence at the back. George Byers wasn’t risked last week having reported a minor issue but is thought to be back in contention for this one, giving Darren Moore a midfield headache following a fine Will Vaulks display last game. With a trip to league-leaders Plymouth Argyle midweek, it’s possible Moore may manage his squad and could make a few tweaks to the lineup.
Wednesdayites have once again sold out their allocation and will back the boys with just shy of 4,000 fans. After a few disappointing displays in the EFL Trophy as well as a defeat at the hands of their South Yorkshire neighbours Barnsley, The Owls have seemingly bounced back with wins over Morecambe and Wycombe separated by a 2-2 draw with Ipswich Town. Sat fourth after ten games, Owls fans are witnessing their team’s best start to a season in over three decades with Wednesday also boasting the title of highest goal scorers in League One, notching 20. With defenders returning, and a red-hot forward line, this is one you’d back Darren Moore’s side to do the business in. 2-1, Smith and Heneghan to score.