SHEFFIELD Wednesday assistant manager Paul Wilkinson is urging the players to show no fear and to go out and express themselves at Southampton.
The Owls travelled down yesterday lunch-time to the south coast in preparation for their Capital One Cup clash at St Mary’s as they look to halt a run of four consecutive defeats.
Dave Jones’ troops have fallen to 21st in the Championship standings and the injuries are piling up. Reda Johnson (foot) and Jay Bothroyd (knee) are big doubts while Lewis Buxton (hamstring) and Rhys McCabe (thigh) are ruled out. Martin Taylor and Ross Barkley, scorer of the second-half penalty against Bolton Wanderers, are cup-tied.
Wilkinson, Jones’ trusted lieutenant at Hillsborough, reckons Wednesday have got nothing to lose and everything to gain versus Southampton.
“We know we have had a tough run but it [Southampton] is a chance for us to bounce back and we are looking forward to it against a Premier League side,” he said. “Maybe there will not be as much pressure as there has been in the last couple of games and we can play our normal game.
“There is pressure on every game but there is not three points at stake. We still want to get through to the next round. It is handy if you can get results in the cup as it can rub off on your league form. We are really looking forward to Southampton and it is another big game for us.
“They are very strong at home. They won on Saturday so it will be a really big test. We have to make sure we give a good account of ourselves.”
Southampton are one of Jones’ former clubs. He has also been in charge of Wolves who Wednesday face on Saturday in the second of three away matches on the spin.
“I’m sure he will get a good reception and it is a game Dave is looking forward to,” said Wilkinson.
Wilkinson claims confidence is “fine” in the camp and said the players have been “brilliant” despite their dip in form.
However, he is demanding the Owls cut out the defensive lapses in concentration which have hindered their progress in the Championship.
“It is about getting back to basics; we have to improve defensively,” he admitted. “We need to do better but the biggest thing is we need to try and get a settled back four.”
Jones is set to shuffle his pack. Chris Maguire, Danny Mayor and Paul Corry are all in contention to start while Stephen Bywater, Jose Semedo Gary Madine and Mark Beevers could also be given run-outs.
Wilkinson, meanwhile, says he is enjoying his new role. It was a couple of months ago the former Barnsley, Middlesbrough and Grimsby Town striker succeeded Terry Burton as right-hand man. Burton left to become Arsenal’s reserve team and head development coach.
“There are more decisions to be made and you have to step up to the plate and I have thoroughly enjoyed it so far,” he said.
Teams and ref
SAINTS (possible): Boruc; Butterfield, Richardson, Seaborne, Shaw; Chaplow, Ward-Prowse, Cork; Lee, Rodriguez, Mayuka (4-3-3).
OWLS (possible): Bywater; Lee, Gardner, Beevers or Llera, Jones; Mayor, Semedo, Corry, Pecnik; Bothroyd or Madine, Maguire (4-4-2).
Referee: Mark Halsey (Lancashire) The Premier League referee officiated Manchester United’s feisty encounter with Liverpool on Sunday and controversially dismissed Jonjo Shelvey for a tackle on Jonny Evans. He has dished out nine yellow cards and two reds in four matches this season.