Goalkeeper is protected species as centre-halves conserve league points

Top pairing: Danny Batth is learning from  Rob Jones
Top pairing: Danny Batth is learning from Rob Jones

STEPHEN Bywater has paid tribute to the defending that has taken Wednesday to second place in League One as they prepare for the fresh challenge of the city derby.

Gary Madine has earned plenty of publicity because of his scoring feats but the prevention of goals has been vital.

Bywater has not had a real save to make in his three games since he joined the club on loan from Derby and the team have conceded only once.

The keeper has had an important role as well, with his handling, kicking, positional play, experience and communication with the players in front of him, which has helped to organise them.

But he has been impressed by men such as captain Rob Jones and his centre back partner Danny Batth.

Bywater said of Jones: “He is a rock. He is a leader on the pitch. He gives it his all every game and people look up to him and they don’t want to let him down.

“He is magnificent in the air, he makes tackles and gets stuck in. He is fit and strong and the whole defence have been brilliant while I have been here.

“It is a breath of fresh air having Rob in front of me and I hope the fans appreciate what he does

“Centre-halves and goalkeepers don’t get very much limelight but he is doing great and I hope everyone who watches him recognise what a job he does.”

Batth may have attracted less attention than the imposing frame of Jones recently but the 21-year-old has forged a good partnership with the man who is 10 years his senior.

Bywater says: “Danny can learn a lot from Rob. He is going to get better every time he plays next to Rob. His positional play and communication will continue to get better.”

The keeper is thrilled to be playing in his first Sheffield derby. Around 4,300 Owls fans will watch at Bramall Lane, and the beamback at Hillsborough is heading towards an 11,000 sell-out.

It reinforces Bywater’s opinion about the Owls being a top club with great support. and he was impressed when, like all new signings, he was taken to the top of Hillsborough’s Kop by Gary Megson:

“Once you’re up there, you realise how big the stadium is and see the set-up,” he said.

“Gary just said ‘look at that’. It says it all. He said he stood there when he was a Wednesday supporter growing up. He took us up there to show us the full perspective of what the supporters see.

“I love the music before the game. I am clapping and dancing when it is on! It is decent.

“There are 10,000- plus fans in the Kop getting the lads pumped up so I love it.

“This is a massive club and the players who come here need to know that. As a player when you go through the tunnel, you don’t actually notice the size of the ground and the size of the support. Until you’re up there, you don’t appreciate that.”

Despite last week’s win against Chesterfield, Megson will consider changing his back four, with Red Johnson back from duty with Benin to challenge Julian Bennett at left- back spot.