Sheffield Wednesday: Boss Gray set on course to plug Wednesday leaks

Owls boss Stuart Gray
Owls boss Stuart Gray

Of the seven goals Sheffield Wednesday have conceded in their last four outings, three have come from dead-ball situations.

Wigan and Fulham have taken full advantage of the Owls’generosity from set- pieces. Turning that present weakness into a strength is high on Wednesday head coach Stuart Gray’s priority list over the Christmas period.

Speaking to the press corps yesterday, Gray pointed out that a number of goals in the Premier League last weekend came from set- plays.

Gray: “I saw Arsenal concede a goal from a set-piece in the last minute against Liverpool. Sometimes if you get the delivery and run right, there is nothing you can do.

“It’s about desire and a willingness to get hurt for the team. I looked at Martin Skirtel on Sunday and John Terry and they wanted to get on the end of the delivery.

“We will be talking in 15 to 20 years time and set plays will still be conceded whether it is zonal or man for man marking. It takes just one lapse in concentration.”

The Owls chief, who could be without skipper Glenn Loovens (hamstring) for their Boxing Day meeting with Blackpool at Hillsborough, has called on his squad to stop giving “cheap” and “stupid” free kicks away.

As well as demanding a big defensive improvement, Gray is urging his back four to start chipping in with goals themselves from set plays to take the pressure off his misfiring forward line. He says centre-backs Loovens and Tom Lees should be “disappointed” to have not got on the score-sheet this season.

“We are not getting enough goals from set plays,” he acknowledged. “But it’s not just us. Every manager and coach will be saying the same thing.”

Wednesday’s players will train today but Gray has given them Christmas Day off as they prepare to entertain bottom-of-the-table Blackpool on Friday. The Owls have struggled in their own backyard throughout the 2014/15 campaign, beating just Reading and Wigan.

Nonetheless, Gray expects his side to perform against a Blackpool side who were trounced 6-1 by Bournemouth last weekend.

He stressed: “We have got to win it. Somebody said to me we will be facing a wounded animal but we are a wounded animal.

“It’s unusual for us to get beaten 4-0 and the manner in which we got beaten at Fulham was disappointing.

“People will expect us to beat Blackpool and I expect us to win.

“I expect us to win every game we play at home. That should be our mindset.

“I would imagine Lee Clark (Blackpool boss) will have them fired up. It was a heavy home defeat to Bournemouth but I am more focused on what we can do.

“We’ve got to be a bit braver and take more responsibility in the opposition’s box.

“We have to get a little more self belief, confidence and show more of a willingness to get forward.”