Owls time it right as they delay loan deal

Flashback: Michail Antonio versus the Owls during a loan spell with Colchester
Flashback: Michail Antonio versus the Owls during a loan spell with Colchester

MICHAIL Antonio officially becomes a Wednesday player today - in a loan arrangement designed to make him available for the whole of the League One play-offs.

Although agreement on the deal was reached with Reading on Tuesday, the formalities will not be completed until today, two days before his possible debut in the derby.

That is because emergency loans such as this have a maximum span of 93 days.

So in signing officially today, Antonio will be available for the play-off final at Wembley on May 26.

If he had moved to Hillsborough earlier in the week then the loan would have ended just before the final.

The Owls must take into account every possible eventuality but they still hope to earn automatic promotion.

They and United will be looking tomorrow for the results from Bournemouth v MK Dons and Huddersfield v Exeter, which will probably be of more interest to the Owls, with the fourth-placed Terriers and the fifth-placed Dons each only two points behind them.

Wednesday could be fourth or fifth by the time they kick off at 1pm on Sunday but, with 14 games left, will still be in contention for an automatic spot.

The chasing pack have been waiting for Charlton to slip up, but the Addicks, seven points clear at the top, will start

as favourites against Bournemouth at The Valley, though the Cherries will be hoping for a promotion challenge of their own. They are eighth, four points off the top six.

After a poor run for Wednesday and speculation about Megson’s future, he feels that all he can do is to plough on

until someone tells him otherwise - the standard response from managers when their future becomes a subject of public discussion.

Wednesday badly need a Sheffield derby win.

But he insists: “We need a win anyway, regardless of who we are playing.

“I don’t think we should have lost as we just have done [in the last three games] but results dictate everything at a club.”

Megson feels that it could be said the Owls have been unfortunate in the run of three defeats.

But he says: “You can’t just rely on luck. You only start talking about it when it’s not going your way.

“I’ve said to the players that we haven’t been outworked or outplayed in the last three games. We’ve had more shots and more crosses than the opposing teams.

“We haven’t had the

bounce of the ball. We’ve been beaten by two free-kicks, a corner and a penalty. That’s culminated in where we are now.”

Antonio trains at Middlewood for the first time today after the deliberate delay in his registration.

Reading think enough of him to have made sure that the loan agreement includes a clause allowing them to recall him at 24 hours’ notice after the first 28 days of the loan, if they deem it necessary.

But this is a standard precautionary measure when clubs just want to insure themselves against sudden problems.

There is probably little chance of Wednesday losing him before the season is out.

Megson has to decide whether or not to pitch him straight into the side. But he played in two Championship games recently and there do not appear to have been any question marks about his fitness.

The Owls will be able to carry out a more thorough assessment when he goes through his paces today.

Megson thrust Mike Jones straight into a debut against Charlton last month after his arrival from Bury and in hindsight reflected that it may have been premature.

But Antonio has been on a bigger stage than Bury, at Reading, and was a loan success at Southampton as well as Colchester.

Wednesday are also in need of an injection of pace, with Jermaine Johnson ruled out for two months because of his knee injury, and it all points to Antonio playing on Sunday.

He has gone down the Madejski Stadium pecking order in the last three weeks after injuries to a couple of colleagues cleared up and the January signing of Polsnd international Tomasz Cywka from Derby.

Huddersfield new boss Simon Grayson will be in the dug-out for the Exeter game. He said: “I could have waited for other job opportunities, but I wanted to grasp this one.”

Teams and ref

OWLS (possible): Bywater, Buxton, Batth, R Jones, R Johnson, Prutton, Semedo, Lines, Antonio, O’Grady, Lowe (4-4-2).

BLADES (possible): Simonsen, Lowton, Maguire, Collins, Jean-Francois, Flynn, Doyle, Montgomery, Quinn, Cresswell, Evans (4-4-2).

Mark Halsey (Lancashire). He comes from Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, but is now based in Bolton. He played for Hertford Town and Cambridge City and played non-league football for 12 years before taking up refereeing in 1989.