Sheffield Wednesday: Injury-hit Owls bid to get up to speed

Michail Antonio, left, congratulates Jacques Maghoma after his goal against Bury.
Michail Antonio, left, congratulates Jacques Maghoma after his goal against Bury.

Like his predecessor Dave Jones, Stuart Gray regards pace as a key element of Sheffield Wednesday’s attacking armoury next season.

Jacques Maghoma, Michail Antonio and Jeremy Helan will be battling it out for first-team spots in the wide positions.

Maghoma and Antonio enhanced their hopes of starting the Owls’ Championship curtain-raiser at Brighton and Hove Albion in a fortnight’s time by finding the back of the net in pre-season. Maghoma registered in the 3-1 victory over Bury while Antonio netted in their defeat to FC Arsenal Tula as part of their five-day warm weather training in Slovenia

Gray told The Star: “We do have pace on the counter attack. We can quickly turn defence into attack. We have got players in the team who can carry the ball 60 yards up the pitch.

“But we have to get numbers in and around our quick players to support them. There has to be an end product to our play.”

The Wednesday chief, who is set to hand a second successive start to trialist Dejan Kelhar in tomorrow’s warm-up match at Doncaster Rovers, kick-off 3pm, is calling on his team to develop a ruthless streak.

“It is pleasing the likes of Chris Maguire, Michail and Attey [Atdhe Nuhiu] have scored in pre-season but we could have scored more in some of the games,” said Gray. “I’m very happy with how things went in Slovenia but I’m greedy; I was disappointed with the final piece of the jigsaw.

“When we have got into good positions, we have not punished teams. I was delighted with the performance against Tula and we were unfortunate to lose the game but we didn’t convert our chances. We have to be more clinical.”

Goalkeeper Chris Kirkland is available for selection again, having not travelled to Maribor due to concussion he suffered in training. He is expected to feature versus Rovers but Sam Hutchinson (knee) is a doubt.

Combative midfielder Jose Semedo (groin) is unlikely to be risked. He was sent for a scan yesterday.

Gray said: “We are waiting to find out the results of Semi’s scan. He is a very honest, committed player who will play with injuries. We have to make sure he doesn’t aggravate it further as we don’t want to lose him for two to three weeks.”

There is a possibility Lewis Buxton may miss all of Wednesday’s pre-season fixtures because of a knee problem.

“Lewis had an injection in his knee on Thursday so hopefully that will help with the healing process,” confirmed Gray. “We have to wait a few days for it to settle down before he can comeback into training.

“Lewis has been very unlucky. It is frustrating for him and very disappointing for us.”

Talented youngster Jack Stobbs faces four to six weeks on the sidelines after hurting his ankle ligaments against Matlock.