Victory for Sheffield Wednesday at mid-table Ipswich Town today will confirm their place in the Championship play-offs for the second year in a row.
The Owls, sitting in fifth position, look in good shape after claiming five straight league wins. They are on a roll and have few injury worries to contend with.
The statistics suggest Wednesday have improved. Carlos Carvalhal’s team have collected 78 points so far, their best return in a second-tier campaign since picking up 82 points in the 1990-91 season.
But midfield playmaker Barry Bannan feels the Owls have, to some extent, underachieved by not mounting a serious automatic promotion tilt.
“We possibly could have been closer (to the top two),” Bannan told The Star.
“You only realise that now, when you look at how close to Newcastle we are, you think of results which should have gone our way. You think just that little bit more, and we could have been in the top two.
“We probably let ourselves down in certain parts of the season. It wasn’t for the want of not trying, sometimes you just can’t win every game.
“When we have needed to win games at the business end (of the season), we have shown what a good side we are. On our day we are better than any other team in this league.”
However, Bannan is convinced Wednesday have learned valuable lessons from going so close to promotion last term.
“Games this season we have won, last season we would have drawn or lost,” he said. “We have found a stronger mentality in the squad, and we know how to win games.
“Last season, we maybe would have attacked too much, ending up drawing or losing the game.
“We have found a good balance this season. It may not be better on the eye, but we are getting the results and that’s all that matters at this time of the season.
“Sometimes you can’t always play pretty football.
“Last season you would have probably said we were a better (more attractive) team, passing the ball, going into the final against Hull.
“In the first half against Hull we were probably the better team, but we never got the result and it’s all about the result.”
The return from injury of Gary Hooper and Kieran Lee has coincided with Wednesday’s stellar form.
Bannan said: “They were two big parts of how we got to Wembley last season. Losing them was a big blow, and at the same time, had a double effect.
“Getting them back, their experience, has been a big bonus.
“The players who have come in have done an unbelievable job. We have a big squad and that’s why the manager bought very well in the summer.”
Bannan is a big fan of Lee’s qualities, saying: “If you had to pick one player not to be injured, it’s probably Kieran Lee.
“Sometimes you think there are two Kieran Lees on the pitch, He’s everywhere. He’s massive for us.
“I didn’t really know about him before I came here, but he’s probably one of the best players I have played with.”