In his quest to turnaround their poor home form and keep Sheffield Wednesday’s slender play-off hopes alive, boss Stuart Gray has threatened to wield the axe.
The Owls head coach is running out of patience with some members of his squad following a five-match winless run.
Indeed, Wednesday entertain 21st-placed Brighton and Hove Albion tomorrow, having fired blanks in eight out of their 15 home fixtures.
Gray expects a big response from his team, claiming they were “poor with an without the ball” in Tuesday’s 2-1 defeat at Ipswich Town in midweek.
“It was just a shock to me how we played,” admitted Gray, who made just one personnel change at Portman Road, playing Lewis McGugan in midfield instead of the suspended Chris Maguire. “That was probably one of the lowest I’ve felt because I could not see that performance coming.
“It was an off night. You can maybe get away with carrying one or two players. On Tuesday night, we probably had six or seven who had disappointing performances.
“The players know it was not acceptable. If you’ve got the shirt, you’ve got to keep it. Nobody has got any guarantee of keeping their place after the performance the other night.”
Although Maguire serves the second of a two-match suspension, Sergiu Bus is pressing hard for a first start since arriving for an undisclosed fee from CSKA Sofia on transfer deadline day. The Romanian striker was an unused substitute versus Ipswich despite producing an eye-catching cameo display in the draw with Cardiff City last week.
Gray conceded: “He [Bus] has looked a lot sharper in training. When players come from abroad, it’s such a big learning curve.
“The good thing is his English is very good and he understands what we are asking of him. He’s looked sharp and strong in training so maybe there will be an opportunity for him on Saturday.”
Filipe Joaquim Melo Silva, Jacques Maghoma and Atdhe Nuhiu could also come into Gray’s thoughts should he decide to rotate his squad following a busy week.
Influential duo Glenn Loovens (ankle) and Jose Semedo (toe) are major injury concerns as Wednesday chase their first home success since Boxing Day. Having served a two-match ban for accruing 10 yellow cards, captain Loovens was set to return at the heart of their rearguard. However, the Dutchman sustained an ankle problem in training and was sent for a precautionary scan earlier this week.
“At the moment, he’s got a boot on and he can’t put any weight on his right ankle,” said Gray. “He is touch and go for Saturday.”
Semedo took no part in the Owls first-team’s training session yesterday but Gray has not ruled out the Portuguese midfielder from featuring tomorrow.
He said: “He’s still getting the swelling down. We will review it on Friday. He’s going in the right direction. Semi is very confident he will be okay for Saturday.”
A new winger remains at the top of Gray’s priority list but he has expressed his frustration at their lack of cutting edge in the final third. Nottingham Forest’s victory over Wigan Athletic saw the Owls slip to 11th.
“I know if we had converted our chances, we would be talking about us being higher in the league,” acknowledged Gray.
He admits a three point haul on home soil “can’t come fast enough”.
“I know we have to get our home form sorted out,” said Gray. “It’s not been acceptable. The application will be a 100 per cent better than it was against Ipswich.”
Wednesday are now 13 points adrift of the play-off positions. They are actually closer to the drop zone (9) than the top-six but Gray prefers to keep looking up rather than down. He has also warned his out-of-contract players to up their games.
He said: “We need to go on a run. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves.
“We have enough points to go for the play-offs and players are for playing their livelihoods so that’s a big incentive.”