Sheffield Wednesday: Stu out to blunt Grabban threat

Oguchi Onyewu and Atdhe Nuhiu battle against Barnsley

Oguchi Onyewu and Atdhe Nuhiu battle against Barnsley

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Stuart Gray is demanding more defensive steel from his team as they brace themselves for a stiff test at Bournemouth today.

The Owls are up against one of the Championship’s prolific scorers, ex-Rotherham star Lewis Grabban, and a side who in their last three home games have beaten Leeds 4-1, QPR 2-1 and Reading 3-1.

Eddie Howe’s side have also won eight of their last 11 games and were on a five-match winning streak until they held to a draw at Yeovil last week.

Gray is only too well aware that the Owls have let in 11 goals in their last four games, and that defensive frailty cancelled out the six they scored against Forest and Blackburn.

“Some of our defending has been poor,” admits Gray.

“We’ve conceded 11 in the last four games. We’re scoring goals but we’ve got to get back to being harder to beat. We start with a clean sheet at Bournemouth, Hopefully we’ll come away with a clean sheet.

“We’re playing against a team who came to Hillsborough and caused us problems and got three points.

“They’ve got something to play for. I think they feel they’ve got an outside chance of the play-offs.

“They started well then had a little dip. now they’ve picked up again. Eddie Howe’s got Grabban up front, he bought Yann Kermorgant from Charlton, and he’s got a few goals.

“The thing about Bournemouth is they’re a good footballing side. Eddie has got them playing nice, attractive football.

“They play to their strengths and they get the ball forward to the forwards and they get the ball between the posts, the area where most goals come from.

“We have to defend better.”

Grabban has scored 20 goals; Kermorgant, who was signed in January, has netted six in his last eight appearances to add to the eight he scored this season for Charlton.

His tally for the Cherries includes a hat-trick in a 5-0 home win against Doncaster last month, and a double in the victory against Leeds.

Gray will weigh up whether or not to plunge Glenn Loovens straight back into the side, but the Bournemouth danger men are certain to come up against Loovens’ regular centre-back partner, Oguchi Onyewu, who made his comeback against Blackburn.

The Owls manager said: “I thought he was calm; he showed quality on the ball; he got it down and got us playing.”

Gray appreciates the threat of Grabban, who scored in a 2-1 win at Hillsborough in December:

“He plays on the last man. He doesn’t get involved in the build-up play. What he does do is put fear into defenders, and if he’s got grass to go into, he can travel, he can travel with the ball. He’s had an unbelievable season. I think they were very close to selling him to Brighton. Then suddenly they’ve sorted out a new contract; he’s settled.

“He’s one we’ve got to keep quiet. But what we have to do is work the other way; if we keep going deep and deep we’ll play into his hands.

“I want my back four to be aggressive with him and make sure we try to keep him quiet.”

Bournemouth are only two points off the top six with four games to play, but Reading, Brighton and Ipswich stand between them and a place in the play-offs. Wednesday will be mathematically safe if they win today, regardless of other results.