Dom Howson's Sheffield Wednesday column: Why Owls should not fear run-in
For frills and excitement, the Championship is the place to be.
The second-tier is such an entertaining, competitive, unpredictable division.
The only thing we can say with any real certainty heading into the final stretch is that Rotherham United will be playing their football in League One next season.
There are still three teams vying for the two automatic promotion spots, although Newcastle United and Brighton and Hove Albion have opened up a healthy six-point cushion over Huddersfield Town. It looks a tall order for the West Yorkshire club to squeeze in the top two but the Terriers do, crucially, have a game in hand.
The fight for a play-off berth could also go right down to the wire. As Jon Newsome rightly pointed out in his column yesterday, expect there to be plenty of twists and turns in the pursuit of Championship glory.
At first glance, Wednesday’s run-in doesn’t look particularly kind. Four of the league’s top 10 clubs have to visit Hillsborough between now and May 7, starting with fifth-placed Reading tonight.
But it is not just Wednesday who have a demanding, tough-looking schedule. Leeds United, who are four points better off than Carlos Carvalhal’s side, face four top-eight clubs in their next five fixtures. Fulham’s away programme includes trips to Derby County, now under new management, Norwich City, Huddersfield and a potentially vital meeting with the Owls on the last day. Teams will drop points.
Experience counts for a lot in these situations and Wednesday have been here before and got the T-shirt. They know what it takes to get over the line.
Should they fear playing some of the Championship’s big-hitters at S6? Absolutely not. They have shown over the last 20 months they can raise their game and be a match for anyone on home soil.
The Hillsborough matches should take care of themselves. The question is how will the team fare on the road?
A South Yorkshire double-header with Barnsley and Rotherham directly after the international break will be difficult assignments. Both Barnsley and Rotherham will be playing for pride and won’t want to do the Owls any favours in their attempts to confirm a top-six finish.
Trips to two mid-table sides in the shape of Queens Park Rangers and Ipswich Town round off Wednesday’s schedule.
With the chasing pack edging ever nearer, the Owls can’t afford too many more slip-ups if they are to be involved in the play-off shoot-out for the second year running. They didn’t perform badly at Aston Villa but conceded two sloppy goals and lost their discipline.
Consistency is a big thing at this level and Wednesday now need to show their mettle and go on another good run.