DCSIMG

Gray eyes a fix for leaky Owls defence

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Sheffield Wednesday complete their 2013/14 Championship commitments this weekend - and Stuart Gray will then almost immediately turn his attentions towards next season.

The Owls manager told a packed audience, at a question-and-answer session on Tuesday evening, that Wednesday do lack strength in depth - and that he does have targets in his mind.

Players who are physically capable of playing 50 games a season, too, are high on the agenda. Wednesday’s season has been hampered with injuries throughout, to key players - including captain Anthony Gardner - at key times.

Liam Palmer, named Wednesday’s Player of the Year at The Star’s Football Awards earlier this week, has been the club’s most consistent performer, making 38 starts - although he is expected to miss this weekend’s trip to Ipswich as he is nursing a hip injury.

Gray, who attended the intimate evening alongside Palmer, coaches John Deehan and Lee Bullen and academy chief Dean Ramsdale, told the 200-strong crowd that Gary Madine does have a future at Hillsborough, and that he wants the Owls to finish higher next season than they will this.

Wednesday head to Ipswich safe from the threat of relegation, but on the back of an alarming run of one win in seven games.

They have conceded 18 twice in that period, and even the one game they did win - away at Bournemouth - they still shipped two goals, and were pegged back twice before two late strikes earned them an unlikely win, with ten men.

Wednesday’s leaky defence is an immediate concern for Gray, who has acknowledged in public his frustrations.

They were out in force again at the weekend, as poor defending gifted Bolton Wanderers two goals in their 3-1 win at Hillsborough.

Chris Maguire, who missed that match after being given leave to attend his grandmother’s funeral, will be available for selection again against Ipswich.

“We missed his bubbly character against Bolton,” Gray said.

He gets a hold of the ball and demands more from his team-mates.

“Now, Ipswich is a big game for us. We’ve got to get some credibility back.”

Gray handed youngster Jack Stobbs his professional debut against Wanderers, although he concedes he would have preferred to have done so in a winning effort.

 

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