Match analysis: Weary-looking Sheffield Wednesday face unwanted FA Cup replay
A draw in the FA Cup was the worst possible scenario for Sheffield Wednesday.
Saturday's drab, goalless stalemate with Luton Town gives the Owls an unwanted obstacle in their attempts to mount an unlikelyÂ late promotion charge.
"The one thing we didn't want was a replay," admitted caretaker Wednesday boss Steve Agnew.
It is why the Owls made a big statement of intent by selecting a strong starting eleven. Agnew, holding the fort until Steve Bruce begins his job on February 2, made just one change in his first match in charge, bringing in Cameron Dawson for Keiren Westwood in goal.
He added:Â "We went for it as best we could.'
Agnew was eager to make home advantage count and maintain their upward momentum. He wanted to get the job done andÂ avoid a replay at all costs.
He said: 'We felt there was momentum over the Christmas period and the players were confident. We had a chat and decided to go with a very similar team.
But Luton are no mugs. The Hatters, lying in second position in League One, were assiduous in their work and smart about it.
Roared on by 4,200 fans in the Leppings Lane end, Luton were dogged and resilient defensively as they secured their place in the fourth round draw for the first time since 2013.
But even the Hatters manager, Nathan Jones, was less than thrilled at the prospect of a replay following a busy Christmas period.
Jones, who saluted the travelling supporters at the final whistle as he celebrated his third anniversary at the helm, conceded: "It's not ideal having the extra game, but the chance to play at a full house back at our place is a good one."
Jones described the volume of matches clubs have had to play over the festive schedule "as utter stupidity if you want quality and proper football". It is hard to disagree with Jones. Both teams looked jaded.
"The players have had a heavy Christmas period and we went strong because we felt they could go again," insisted Agnew.
'With the talent we have, we know we weren't at our best and maybe a little bit of that was due to all the games over the Christmas period.'
In a low-key affair, played out in front of an empty Kop, a weary-looking Wednesday side delivered a flat performance in a forgettable tie.
After an impressive showing against Birmingham City on New Year's Day, this represented a step backwards. Everything felt flat.
Steven Fletcher headed narrowly over from a Barry Bannan cross inside the opening two minutes.
Fletcher forced Luton goalkeeper James Shea into a comfortable save from a Bannan corner, Adam Reach fired just wide after an intricate piece of skill on the edge of the penalty area and Marco Matias twice tested the reflexes of Shea either side of half-time.
But the Owls showed a lack of creativity, flair and pace in the final third as they struggled to open up a compact, well-drilled Luton outfit. Their approach play was all too slow and predictable.
"I thought we had the better chances in a game that towards the end opened up a little bit," said Agnew. "We're disappointed not to win the game, but equally we're still in the hat.
"Did we have that little bit of quality in the final third that you need to win a game? Probably not on the day.
"We did lack little bit of guile and quality that has been seen in recent weeks to create a goal.
'Their keeper was the busier of the two but I don't think we quite did enough so we go again in the replay.'
Luton, currently on a 14-match unbeaten league run, looked dangerous at times on the counter attack but only forced Dawson into one save all afternoon.
'I thought it was an even game between an established Championship side and us who want to get to the next level,' said Jones.Â "We came here with a game plan and tried to be as positive as we could. We didn't come here and park the bus and I think it could have gone either way.
"We perhaps just lacked a little bit of cutting edge in the final third, but I'm very proud of how we played because we showed that we can compete at this level.'
WORK TO DO
Wednesday are under new management and have plenty to work on over the coming weeks and months. Their final ball was poor against Luton and they lacked a cutting edge in front of goal.
"I think when there is a change of a manager then obviously everyone has got different ideas and we have got different ideas on how we like to play," said Agnew. "All we have to do is transfer that on to the training ground.
"It is important, not only on the training ground, but in the video work and feedback we give we show where and how we can improve and who needs to do what to create and score more goals. You need that time as coaches.
"We will have that time this week and we will make sure the work goes in. Let's hope you see a reflection of that work on Saturday."
On this evidence, Bruce has his work cut out to revive their fortunes.