Sheffield Wednesday: One Hull of a test in store for Owls
Seven tussles. Zero victories.
That’s Sheffield Wednesday’s record against the teams directly above them in the table this season.
There is no disputing the fact that the Owls have made great strides under Carlos Carvalhal, but they have picked up a paltry four points out of a possible 21 when they have collided with the Championship’s top five.
It is a sequence of results which will not fill Wednesdayites with too much confidence as they prepare to take on league leaders Hull City at the KC Stadium tonight.
Maximum points are required to reignite the Owls’ faltering automatic promotion challenge.
Experienced winger Ross Wallace told The Star: “It would be a massive confidence boost for us if we could get a win against Hull.
“It would be fantastic for us and give the boys an extra push. We have played well in the last two games but wins breed confidence.”
Wallace is acutely aware that they need to start beating their rivals if they are to secure a top-six finish.
“We need to start picking up results against the teams above us, especially as the end of the season draws nearer,” he said. “We need to go for it.”
He dismissed suggestions that their results have psychologically affected the team, saying: “It has not played on the group’s minds. It is just one of those things. It is hard to pick up wins in this league, especially against the sides in the top six or eight.
“You don’t get many chances in these games. It may come down to two or three chances and you have got to make sure you take them. Maybe that’s where we have come up short but we have certainly played well in most of the games we have played against these teams.”
A big source of encouragement for Wallace and his teammates is that they have more than matched the division’s elite in their own backyard. They have held Hull, Burnley, Brighton and Hove Albion and Derby County at Hillsborough.
“They have all been close games,” insisted Wallace. “We have played pretty well in most of the games and we have created chances.
“We have been well in the games so Hull is another opportunity for us and fingers crossed, whatever team plays, we can do the job.”
Defeat to Hull may fatally damage Wednesday’s bid to catch the top two.
Wallace said: “Some people could say that but if we don’t win, it’s not like we don’t still have a chance. Hull is a game we would like to win. We are confident.
“We played some good football the other night (versus QPR). We created some good chances but we just couldn’t get the ball over the line. You could see that QPR set up to stop us playing and show us a bit of respect. They tried to hit us on the counter attack.
“If we can defend well against Hull, hopefully we can hit them on the counter attack. They are the home team so they will have to come out against us.”
Since the turn of the year, Hull have chalked up six victories in eight league fixtures to cement their position at the top of the pile. Compact and well drilled, Steve Bruce’s men have chalked up nine clean sheets in their last 11 matches. In total, they have kept an impressive 17 shut outs.
Dundee-born Wallace said: “Hull is probably one of those games in a season which is not the be all and end all but if we could put in a good performance that will show we are right in the mix and help us get back on track.
“They are a good side, have got good players and can really hurt you. They were, in my eyes, always going to be in contention come the end of the season.
“They are a good team and a good manager who has got the best of them.
“We have got a game plan which will hopefully cause them a lot of problems. They have got a lot of talent going forward but we have to concentrate on ourselves. We know if we can defend well as a team we have certainly got the players that can hurt them.”
Despite failing to beat either Preston North End or QPR, Carlos Carvalhal’s charges remain sixth going into the final two and a half months of the campaign.
Wallace, who has bagged three goals since moving to Hillsborough, said: “At the start of the season, everybody would have snapped your hands off for the top six. But obviously in recent weeks people have started to think about the automatic positions. Sometimes you just have to take a step back and see how far we have come as a team and a squad.
“I think the top six would be a good season for us. But, saying that, we know we can go on a run of games and get straight up there again.”
Seven years have passed since the 30-year-old earned his one and only cap for Scotland, but he has not given up hope of forcing his way into Gordon Strachan’s plans.
“I would love it to happen again,” he said. “It is one of those things.
“There is a lot of competition for places in my position for Scotland and we have a lot of good players coming through as well.
“My main focus is on Sheffield Wednesday. If a call-up comes, then it comes. But the main thing for me is playing for Sheffield Wednesday and getting the club up the league.
“I’m certainly happy with my form. I have done reasonably well but I would like to get more assists and I’m due a goal.”