Dom Howson column: Can Owls handle soaring expectation levels?

Claude Dielna was Wednesday's unlikely hero at Ewood Park.
Claude Dielna was Wednesday's unlikely hero at Ewood Park.

If ever a goal epitomised the team spirit Stuart Gray has instilled in this Sheffield Wednesday side, it was their winner at Ewood Park.

Every outfield player wanted to congratulate Claude Dielna following his fortuitous last minute strike against Blackburn. Dielna ran towards the away end, jumped over the advertising hoardings and embraced as many Owls fans as he could get his hands on.

Kieran Lee joined in the fun and got a smack on the nose for his troubles while Liam Palmer hugged Tango, who must have thought Christmas had come early.

It was nice seeing the players share that moment with the supporters. Wednesdayites have had little to cheer in recent months.

Now things are looking much rosier after back-to-back Championship victories. Now they have momentum. Now they are not letting teams off the hook.

A draw would have been a fairer result at Blackburn. If anything, the hosts carried the great attacking threat in the second half. It is the sort of match Wednesday would probably have lost last season. However, Gray’s men soaked up the pressure, maintained their shape and concentration levels and Dielna was the unlikely hero in the closing stages.

That victory has set them up perfectly for the rest of their December programme.

There is still plenty of room for improvement. As strong as the Owls have been on the road, it’s been a different story in their own backyard. Only Reading and Wigan Athletic have left Hillsborough empty-handed this season.

Whereas fans were maybe turning up more in hope than expectation a few weeks ago, they will now be disappointed if Owls fail to come away with a healthy points return when they go head-to-head with Wolves and bottom club Blackpool. Indeed, all four of the clubs Gray’s men take on between now and the end of the year are beneath them in the table. How will they handle the pressure?

This run of fixtures will underline whether Wednesday possess the belief and ability to be in the hunt for a top-six spot. This is where their attacking quality needs to come to the fore.

Under Gray’s management, Wednesday have never won three on the trot. Tomorrow would be a good time to put that stat to bed.