Gary Megson is challenging his strikers to take Sheffield Wednesday’s improvement from back to front on Saturday.
Two clean sheets and a first win under new management means Megson has a decent platform for his belated first game in full charge at Hillsborough.
But if Wednesday are to enjoy a late home run, possibly bringing the top six back into focus, they will need to set higher standards at both ends of the field. And Megson warns today that his expectations are rising, even though he refuses to pay lip service to bridging a 12 point gap to the play-offs.
“There’s been an upsurge in workrate and application,” he said. “We’ve looked much more solid in the last two games. Now the expectation from me and the rest of the staff will be to keep to this standard week-in and week-out.
“I want us to do as well defensively but to to start taking our chances more readily. We had way more chances than Bournemouth in our goalless draw down there and then at Carlisle we had twice as many shots, even though I was disappointed that they had the lion’s share of the game.”
The Owls boss, who said in his first interview that he did not envisage having to bolster his existing array of strikers, added: “We’ve got some decent players in that area and, to be honest, they’ve not been given the opportunity to win games.
“We’ve been a bit stand-offish and only taken baby steps. But if they can’t do it then we’ll need different players. We’ve got a template on the way we play and I’ve spoken to the squad about it.
“People need to take their opportunities when they get them.”
Megson clearly means that in more ways than one. His first priority, though, was to stem the flow of goals conceded: “Before, it wasn’t a case of keeping clean sheets, it was about trying to keep the score below three - or even four or five, which was absolutely ridiculous.”
A 4-5-1 system has done the necessary. Megson isn’t saying whether he will be more open at Hillsborough but insists: “I want us to be able to change formation readily during games. In the past I’ve had teams that were adaptable. Whether that can be done here, I’m not so sure.
“But I want us to be positive and set a high tempo. One of the things that pleased me at Carlisle was that we won a corner within the first 10 seconds.”
It should not be assumed from the recent link with West Ham reject Benni McCarthy that Megson is looking for an experienced striker. He explained that it was an option thrown up by chief executive Paul Aldridge’s links with the Hammers but is not being pursued.
As for the rest of the season, the reality check is that the Owls are in 16th place - 10 adrift of the minimum target at the start of the season. “We’re in the position we deserve to be in,” said Megson. “We can only do the best we can and see where it takes us.”
Another cold dose of logic is that Plymouth could hardly be more dangerous opposition on Saturday. Forget the fact that they are bottom after being deducted 10 points for going into administration. Forget that their players aren’t being paid.
Megson, who played under Argyle boss Peter Reid at Manchester City, warned: “When things go as fundamentally wrong as they have at Plymouth there tends to be a galvanising effect. Plymouth won last week with 10 men and, knowing Reidy, they will have a right good go against us.
“For us, it’s been a strange time. I’ve never known such a long trot away from home - and yet I’ve only been here for three weeks. I’ve been extolling the virtues of our supporters without us playing in front of them. That is something for the players to look forward to now.”