Dom Howson column: Five things Owls must do to kick on in 2016

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1) Improve their away record: Wednesday can’t carry on relying on their home form to bail them out.

They simply have to start picking up better results on the road if they are to keep pace with the top-six. Carlos Carvalhal’s men have garnered a paltry eleven points out of a possible 36 away from Hillsborough, recording just two clean sheets. The Owls have not won on their travels since October 23, a six-match winless run. Tomorrow’s showdown at Craven Cottage would be a great time for the side to start curing their travel sickness.

2) Start beating their play-off rivals

The Owls’ record reads seven matches played, no victories against top-six opposition. Middlesbrough completed the double over them on Bank Holiday Monday and Burnley and Ipswich have also turned over Carvalhal’s charges. If Wednesday had shown a little more belief, quality and confidence in the final third, they could have quite easily turned draws with Derby County, Hull City and Brighton and Hove Albion into maximum points. Tough trips to Derby, Hull and Brighton await them in the second half of the season.

3) Shed their tag of slow starters

Wednesday are making life hard for themselves by conceding the first goal in matches. Carvalhal’s side have fallen behind in eight out of their last 10 fixtures. It is in the early stages of games where they need to set the tone and start on the front foot. Too often the Owls are handing the initiative to their opponents.

4) Get their injured players out of the treatment room

At the Riverside Stadium, Carvalhal could not call upon Keiren Westwood, Michael Turner, Tom Lees, Alex Lopez, Lewis McGugan, Gary Hooper, Sergiu Bus, Marco Matias and Filipe Melo due to injury. To compound Carvalhal’s problems, Sam Hutchinson also had to be taken off. They are due a change of luck on the injury front in the New Year and that could make a big difference in their play-off tilt.

5) Fine-tune the squad

Carvalhal has indicated there will be minor tweaks in the January transfer window. It does not need a major overhaul. Wednesday have the nucleus of a good, competitive side at this level but a couple of astute new faces will only bolster their prospects of lasting the course. A striker is at the top of their wish-list. But they can’t keep buying and buying. Out-of-favour trio Darryl Lachman, Claude Dielna and Sergiu Bus should be moved on to help balance the books.