Sheffield Wednesday: Gray wants back-up for Wickham

Connor Wickham celebrates his goal against Leicester with Jacques Maghoma
Connor Wickham celebrates his goal against Leicester with Jacques Maghoma

Stuart Gray believes that the Owls cannot just rely on Connor Wickham to get the goals that will propel them up the table.

Wickham has netted all four of the goals that the team have notched in the last six games.

He also has five from his last seven appearances.

But Gray wants others to chip in and has issued a challenge to Jacques Maghoma, who has yet to get off the mark.

The caretaker boss wants the summer signing to repeat the form that he was showing in pre-season before he was injured and show the kind of finishing that brought him 18 goals for Burton Albion last season.

Maghoma has had few opportunities in the team, but he has given workanlike performances in his four-match run in the side, and now Gray wants him to go a stage further and starting scoring.

“Jacques was probably one of the best players in pre-season,” said Gray. £Then he got injured at Stockport, and we were well disappointed. He got 18 goals last season.

“For all the effort and workrate we are seeing from him, we need to get a goal from him. I’m putting that pressure on him.”

Maghoma suffered ankle damage in the first domestic, pre-season friendly, at Stockport, when he was brought down by the keeper in a challenge that resulted in a penalty.

Wickham took a knock on his knee during Saturday’s win at Watford but is expected to be fit for tonight’s Hillsborough clash with Wigan.

Gray still hopes that Sunderland will not recall the England Under 21 centre forward before his loan ends in January, and so far boss Gus Poyet has said a decision on his future will be made then.

The Owls also hope to extend Wickham’s stay but know that his form may be attracting other clubs, and selling him could be an option for Sunderland. Added Gray:: “He’s enjoying it, we are enjoying having him here, every time he goes on the pitch he looks like he is going to score.

“On Saturday I played him up front on his own, as a focal point, and his ball retention was excellent. Then we got bodies round to support him.

“As soon as he addressed that free kick, I fancied him to get it up and over the wall. He practises that.”

Gray gave both Kieran Lee and Maghoma a role in supporting Wickham, swapping them around.

For a home game, the caretaker boss could switch from 4-5-1 back to 4-4-2 and recall Atdhe Nuhiu, who played against Leicester and Forest.

Gray is also preparing the ground for January and the opening of the transfer window: he has planned a training schedule for the next six weeks, though not knowing yet whether it will be him or a newcomer taking the club forward.

He has also sounded out other managers about players, ahead of the opening of the transfer window.

Watching Wigan against Leeds last week formed part of his preparation for tonight’s match.

Although the Latics lost 2-0, Gray says: “They’re a good, athletic side. Maybe the run they had in the Europa League will catch up with them, but they probably have a bigger squad to choose from.

“I was at the FA Cup final (a 1-0 win against Manchester City) and they played ever so well.

“The difference is, once you’ve got relegated you have to adjust to the Championship, an

d maybe that caught up with them, playing Saturday and midweek and in the Europa as well.

“The challenge for us is to get back-to-back wins. We want three points against Wigan, then we’ll concentrate on the home game against Bournemouth on Saturday.

Victory would also take the Owls clear of the bottom three: “That’s the incentive,” said Gray. “There will be be twists and turns all season. With this busy period coming up, a few teams will push up the league, and hopefully we’ll be one of them.”

Even a draw would be enough to ease the club out of the relegation zone, but only on goal difference, one goal better off than Charlton.

A win would take the Owls up to 20th, two points ahead of the Addicks and in front of Doncaster on goal difference, but behind Middlesbrough on goal difference.

Wigan are 14th, eight points ahead of Wednesday. After tonight’s game, every club in the Championship will have played 20 games.

Gray admits that the lack of a clean sheet after 18 games had been an embarrassment - which was wiped away by the victory at Watford.

He thinks that the Owls’ decision to cut prices tonight to £10 for adults and £5 for under 18s and over 65s is a “marvellous gesture” to the fans.