Sheffield Wednesday: Yorkshire top spot still target

Eyes down as Chris Maguire strikes to put the Owls 2-0 up against Charlton

Eyes down as Chris Maguire strikes to put the Owls 2-0 up against Charlton

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When I sat next to David Moyes years ago at a Hillsborough reserves game I never suspected that he would become Manchester United manager, writes Paul Thompson.

The game is full of little surprises, isn’t it? Take the strangest pre-match preparation I’ve ever seen, before the Owls’ game at Bournemouth on Good Friday.

The Cherries held the final run-through of their set-piece routines in the foyer under the main stand, next to the refreshment counters, before fans were admitted to the ground.

Without a ball, players went through scaled-down movements on who would do what. Assistant manager Jason Tindall referred to a clipboard and directed operations, while boss Eddie Howe watched.

Apparently the club work on the routines in training, as per normal, and the pre-match stuiff is a reminder. As they scored from a corner against Wednesday, maybe it works!

Stuart Gray felt that his own preparation for that game paid off - an early start and a sesson at Southampton’s training ground, but the Charlton game showed that there are some things you cannot legislate for.

Once Atdhe Nuhiu and Chris Maguire had scored their cracking goals, and the team were putting on the style, I thought a big win was quite possible.

But they lost their way in general, and passes by Michail Antonio and Nuhiu that led to goals were uncharacteristic. Atdhe’s ball which split the defence could not have been bettered by Chris Waddle!

Maybe Maguire hit the nail on the head when he said: “It was a great start. Then we kind of took our foot off the gas a bit.”

In the last three seasons, there has been promotion or safety to fight for. The last season comparable to this one was 2010-11, when there was a 15th-place finish with 58 points, under Gary Megson.

The club ended with 58 last season as well: to hit Gray’s target of beating that, the team have to win the last two games - at home to Bolton tomorrow and away to Ipswich - a tall order.

But the tag of being the top Yorkshire club in the Football League remains a realistic possibility, with Leeds level on points and with an inferior goal difference. Their remaining games are away to Birmingham and at home to Derby.