Sheffield Wednesday: Gray welcomes Maghoma return

Jacques Maghoma in action agaimst Barnsley

Jacques Maghoma in action agaimst Barnsley

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Jacques Maghoma’s season will come full circle at Ipswich tomorrow.

He began it on the bench after having a chunk of his fledgling Owls career taken out by injury because of a challenge by a goalkeeper.

Jacques Maghoma

Jacques Maghoma

Now he is set to make another comeback with a role as a sub, at least, in the final match, after a carbon-copy bit of misfortune.

The forward was fouled in the first domestic friendly of last summer, at Stockport: it brought a penalty from which Wednesday scored but he had to go off.

At Wigan in March, again he was fouled in the box by the keeper and won a penalty but was able to play no further part in the game. To make matters worse, offender Ali Al Habsi should have been sent off but was not and saved Leon Best’s spot kick.

Stuart Gray is pleased to see Maghoma’s return. He has trained for two days this week and is in the squad that is due to leave early today to train in the Ipswich area ahead of tomorrow’s match.

“He might be featuring for some part of the game,” admits Gray, who has used the former Burton star mostly in a wide role and will welcome the competition for Michail Antonio and Jeremy Helan. Gray can also include Chris Maguire among his options, and the top scorer is almost certain to start, whether it is up front or on the wing, after missing the Bolton game so he could attend his grandmother’s funeral.

Sam Hutchinson is another set to be recalled, after serving a two-match bank, and that means Rhys McCabe or Giles Coke is likely to miss out, assuming Gray keeps a two-man central midfield. But a 4-2-3-1 formation is among the possibilities.

He confirmed that none of the others who have been out with long-term injuries is ready for a return tomorrow, though all are doing light training, but an injury-free start to pre-season is expected, when it begins on July 1.

Although Maghoma regained fitness last year in time to start the season on the bench, he missed a chunk of pre-season and this impaired his chances of earning a place in the side and making an impact in the Championship, though he has made 18 league starts.

Gray reflects: “When Jacques first came in and we saw him in pre-season we thought what a good player we had. He can manipulate the ball, use his left or right foot, and twist and turn against defenders.

“You want any new signing to hit the ground running but Jacques has had two bad injuries which have prevented him from getting valuable football time. He’ll be better for having a full pre-season, as will everybody.”

Looking forward to the Ipswich game, Gray said “Hopefully it will be two relaxed teams. There’s no pressure. Mick (McCarthy) will be hugely disappointed with the result against Burnley (a 1-0 defeat) because they (Ipswich) wanted to keep their season alive.

“But we’re still playing for pride. We’ve got to get back into that winning feeling and back into that habit of not conceding. I want us to get back to being tight defensively, put on a good performance and get a good win.”

“I’m sure my goalkeeper and back four would like a clean sheet - so would I. We’re not struggling to score goals but we’re leaking too many.”

Teams and ref

OWLS (possible): Kirkland; Lee, Onyewu, Loovens, Mattock; Antonio, Hutchinson, Coke, Helan; Maguire; Nuhiu. (4-4-1-1).

IPSWICH (possible): Gerken; Chambers, Berra, Smith, Cresswell; Anderson or Richardson, Skuse, Hyam or Green, Hunt; Williams; Murphy. (4-4-1-1)

CARL BOYESON (East Yorkshire) has shown four red cards and 90 yellows in 31 games this season. He sent off two players in his last Championship game, Middlesbrough v Birmingham on April 8. The last time he refereed the Owls was in the 3-1 defeat at Middlesbrough on November 9, 2012. He was also in charge of the 1-1 draw at Colchester on April 14, 2012, during the League One promotion run-in.