Sheffield Wednesday: Charlie can be Wembley darling

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Stuart Gray will be at Wembley today to watch the Championship play-off final and expects QPR to improve on their Hillsborough display.

The Owls gave one of their best performances of the season when they hammered Harry Redknapp’s side 3-0 in March.

QPR, on the other hand, were abject as they were outplayed and outfought.

But the injured Charlie Austin did not play that night - and Gray points to the difference that a goalscorer can make.

Austin takes his place against Derby today after scoring five goals in his last six appearances, including two in the semi-final second leg 2-1 win against Brighton.

Gray, though knowing how well Wednesday played against QPR, also says: “It shows how important a goalscorer is.

“You can play the best game or play badly but if you’ve got a centre forward who can score goals and you keep getting the ball in the box then it can make all the difference. Austin’s first goal against Brighton was a penalty but the second one was a very good finish.”

Austin, who once scored a hat-trick for Burnley against the Owls, was signed by QPR last summer and has repaid the £4m fee with 20 goals, to add to the 45 that he bagged in two years with the Clarets.

Gray feels that the first goal will be vital today, whoever gets it. “I think Derby might have to score first if they’re going to win; QPR would then have to chase it and Derby have enough pace to counter-attack them; it will also depend on how the younger players handle the occasion.”

Wednesday gave Harry Redknapp’s team a stiff test in the first match of the season, at Loftus Road, though they lost 2-1. But Derby beat them convincingly 3-0 at Pride Park and won 1-0 at Hillsborough with a wonder goal by Patrick Bamford.

Gray has denied any interest in Scunthorpe centre half Niall Canavan.

The Owls were also linked with released Newcastle midfielder Conor Newton, who has signed for Rotherham. It is understood that he was one of many players on their radar but they did not pursue him.