Sheffield Wednesday: Gardner tribute to Owls’ wide boys

Happy return: Kieran Lee has been a success on the right flank.
Happy return: Kieran Lee has been a success on the right flank.
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WEDNESDAY captain Anthony Gardner believes that full backs-turned-wingers Kieran Lee and Jeremy Helan have played an important part in the team’s defensive improvement.

With Lee playing in front of right back Lewis Buxton, and Helan protecting Reda Johnson, opposing teams have found it hard to break down the Owls on the flanks.

But Lee and Helan also have the pace to get forward and have previous experience of playing in advanced positions, so there has been virtually no change in the team’s attacking thrust.

Holding together the defensive effort have been Gardner and Miguel Llera - both in impressive form recently.

Gardner says of the set-up on the flanks, which was first brought in fully during the second half of the Charlton game: “It’s given us a bit more solidity.

“Playing behind them helps you a bit more with your positioning, and Jeremy and Kieran maybe cut out balls where natural wingers wouldn’t.

“It helps with our defensive shape; we seem to be attacking as well as ever, as well. With them playing there, they’re both good for the team.”

Helan was signed by Manchester City from French club Rennes as a winger but brought to Hillsborough on loan primarily as a left back.

However his aptitude for getting forward with pace and skill has been utilised, and Lee, on his return to the team, has shown similar versatility.

Gardner accepts that, as a team, one area where Wednesday can improve is in their final ball, a failing seen once again at Huddersfield.

He said: “We got into some good positions but maybe let ourselves down a bit. It’s something to work on - we’ve been working on pretty much everything else.

“Maybe if we’re a bit more clinical in front of goal we’ll get some more good results.

“We can’t take our foot off the pedal. We’ve got back that confidence that gets you results away and at home.”

The 1-0 win at Barnsley, which ended a run of seven defeats, is identified by the skipper has having started a snowball effect: “It’s a local derby and it was a good one to win; it put confidence back in.

“Even when we weren’t winning, we were in games, but at the end of the day results breed confidence. and it’s a rolling effect.”

Gardner knows that many people will now expect the Owls to deliver against Burnley at Hillsborough today (kick-off 3pm).

“It’s at home and there’s a bit more pressure on you to perform; you’re expected to win.”

Burnley keeper Lee Grant faces his old club. He said: “It will be really special for me. I had three really good years there and I am looking forward to going back.”

The Clarets’ 23-goal striker Charlie Austin, who scored a hat-trick in the 3-3 draw with Wednesday, is set to miss out through injury.

Did You Know: Ex-Owls loan winger Keith Treacy, a member of the promotion side, made his first Burnley start since February in Saturday’s 1-0 home defeat by Leicester.