Alan Biggs at Large: Owls ‘P’ words needs to be ‘Pace’

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Two wins and I heard the P word in my local last Sunday. Not promotion but play-offs. A fairly big transformation in the mood surrounding Wednesday.

The chances are there’ll be more little peaks and troughs to come in a levelling out process that will see the Owls flying pretty much on their current course, a little under the top six but far above the danger zone.

But you can dare to dream and it doesn’t take too big a leap of the imagination when your team is actually only four points off a play-off spot.

There are big gains from tight margins for a side that can find that extra something. But what is it that can carry an otherwise average outfit above its station?

Usually, of course, it’s goals or a goal scorer. Stevie May might be the answer in time but essentially the Owls are a team with a good defence and a tight team ethic. Close-fought 2-1 wins over Wigan and Blackburn, however impressive, offer no sort of evidence that Stuart Gray’s side is about to let rip.

And it goes without saying that money is tight also, meaning that, at best, ready-made marksmen can only be delivered in short loan spells. But for a while now some Wednesday watchers have been pointing to midfield and I think they may have a point. It’s not only a question of creativity, a shortfall potentially made up by the return of Kieran Lee on top of the loaning of Lewis McGugan. We go back to the letter P and here it stands for pace.

Wednesday have been blessed with an abundance of it in recent years but I gather the management is sharply mindful that raw pace is a quality the side now lacks. It’s a big clue as to where any January recruitment might be targeted. Go back to last season and the Owls still had Jermaine Johnson along with Michail Antonio.

Jacques Maghoma can be tricky and clever but is not a flyer; neither, by nature, is Chris Maguire. Further forward, May is a scurrier rather than a speedster. Only Jeremy Helan, in bursts, offers the kind of dynamic athleticism Wednesday used to take for granted.

So, be it a forward or a wide player, here’s where Gray will be looking to add an extra edge. Overall, things are satisfactory. Those sequence stats can be turned the other way all of a sudden. It’s no longer about games without a goal, the emphasis switching to one defeat in eight. And when it comes to changes in mood, no-one reflects that more than a passionate owner who tends to wear his heart on his sleeve. Milan Mandaric is always more likely to push the boat out for a player to improve a winning team than one to prop up a losing one.

Gray must be hoping to mount a run to the next window that encourages his chairman to reach out for any missing pieces in the jigsaw. Right now Wednesday look what they are. But to say “mid-table” undersells it when you think they are 10 points above third bottom. And four points is nothing. Can they find the links to bridge the gap?