Sheffield Wednesday: Championship teams are afraid of us now, says Owls striker
Clubs are paying Wednesday much more respect now they are promotion contenders.
That is the verdict of big striker Atdhe Nuhiu as the Owls turn their attentions to tomorrow’s trip to Nottingham Forest.
For Wednesday to maintain their Championship play-off tilt, Nuhiu is acutely aware the team needs to rectify their record away from Hillsborough.
Carlos Carvalhal’s charges have collected just 20 of their 56 points on their travels this season. In 18 clashes, they have triumphed only four times; Brentford, Rotherham United, Fulham and Birmingham City.
The goals have dried up on the road, with the Owls having failed to score in over four and a half hours of football, albeit they have recently missed their best attacking weapon in Fernando Forestieri.
Nuhiu believes Wednesday have struggled for consistency away from home because teams are setting up to nullify their forward line.
“When teams play against us, they know they are playing against a very good team,” he told The Star. “That’s a fact.
“It is not like last year or a couple of seasons ago. Now when sides play against us, they show us more respect and don’t want to lose either and that makes it sometimes very difficult for us.
“But we know we need to do better away from home and start picking up a few more results.”
The Owls produced a much-improved showing in Tuesday’s goalless draw at Brighton and Hove Albion. Despite making three changes to his back four, Carvalhal’s side looked strong and well organised. Goalkeeper Keiren Westwood was not called into action once.
That was partly down to the protection Westwood received from his new-look backline. Captain Glenn Loovens delivered an outstanding performance at the heart of their rearguard and full-backs Liam Palmer and Joe Bennett also put in rock-solid displays.
It will be fascinating to see if Carvalhal tinkers again or keeps faith with that backline when they head to the City Ground. Defenders Jack Hunt, Michael Turner and Daniel Pudil are all pushing for first-team returns.
The only disappointment for Wednesday from the long trip to Sussex is that they didn’t manage to find a winner in a tight, cagey affair. Although third-placed Brighton dominated possession, the Owls went closest to scoring through Barry Bannan, who was twice denied by David Stockdale after the break.
It was the second match running away from Hillsborough where Carvalhal has made wholesale changes to his starting line-up and all the players who came in stepped up. A positive reaction was needed after their poor performance against Rotherham United and Carvalhal got the response he expected.
“We lost against Rotherham and that was a big disappointment for everybody,” conceded Nuhiu. “We were all disappointed with our performance and we tried to put it right against Brighton.
“The manager changed the team around and the guys who came in showed what they can do.
“I thought we played well at Brighton and we had mixed feelings on the result. Over the 90 minutes, I thought we were the better team. Their goalkeeper had more saves to make than ours. In my opinion, we deserved to win and get the three points.
“But Brighton is a tough place to come and they are third in the table so I think if somebody had offered us a point before the game I think we would have taken it.”
Wednesday held on to their play-off spot after bottom club Bolton Wanderers converted a 97th-minute penalty to rescue a draw at home to Ipswich Town earlier this week. However, the Tractor Boys and Birmingham City will go above Carvalhal’s side in the table if they win their games in hand.
“It’s important for us psychologically to still be in the play-offs as that’s where we want to be at the end of the season,” said Nuhiu, who was recently watched by the Austrian national team. “We have come so far and we don’t want to lose our place.”
Forestieri has been a big miss in the last two matches for Wednesday. He is unpredictable and can conjour a chance out of nothing. The former Watford striker is their crucial link between the midfield and attack, dropping deep to receive the ball. He is irreplaceable.
After five matches without a victory, Nuhiu is backing Forestieri, having served a two-match suspension, to lead a Wednesday revival.
“Fernando will comeback stronger from this experience,” he said. “We have tried to help him as much as we can.
“Fernando is desperate to comeback and help the team out.”