Sheffield Wednesday: Lewis helps Jones buck the trend

Atdhe Nuhiu is in contention for a return against Ipswich
Atdhe Nuhiu is in contention for a return against Ipswich

Wednesday seek to take three points at last tomorrow but already seem sure to achieve one first.

Assuming there are no late snags, Dave Jones will be able to field an unchanged back four.

The Owls manager has not been able to pick the same defence for two league games in a row, in the opening nine matches.

That has been largely due to injuries but with Lewis Buxton fit and having made a comeback at Brighton in midweek, Jones hopes that it marks the start of a period of stability.

He will also want more of the defensive steel that manifested itself for large parts of the last two games, against Doncaster and Brighton, though not when the team conceded late goals.

“We’ve never had the same defence for two games on the trot,” says the manager. “That’s unusual. We’ve always had to change it, mostly because of injuries.

“If we can get a settled team then that will give us more stability and we can work from there.”

Wednesday, after those lapses in the last two games, will have to be on their guard against an Ipswich team who scored four at Derby in midweek.

But once again there will be considerable emphasis on what the Owls do going forward - and defensive concerns will have occupied Ipswich boss Mick McCarthy after his team let a 4-1 half-time lead slip at Pride Park.

That could have been a bad outcome for the Owls, with McCarthy certain to demand a reaction at Hillsborough - in the same way that Jones sought and got an improvement in performance against Doncaster after the 4-1 debacle at Birmingham.

Jones admits that the initial aim at Brighton on Tuesday was to contain the Seagulls by playing 4-5-1, then catch them on the break, but the emphasis seems likely to change tomorrow when the Owls are the home team.

Atdhe Nuhiu could start, as he did against Doncaster, and form a two-man strike force with Matty Fryatt.

Jose Semedo may be left out, having been added as a defensive, third midfield man at Brighton.

Jones admits: “Semi was played to do a job. There was a player of theirs who we needed to do a job on, to nullify their strengths. Semi did it really well.

“I pick a team I think will get us a result.”

Nuhiu was moved to the bench though Jones had been pleased with his contribution against Doncaster.

“It’s not about dropping somebody,” says the boss. “It’s about leaving them out to play somebody who can give you something different or a bit more to help you win a certain game.”

Jones makes light of any suggestion that there could be a backlash from Ipswich after their slip-up in midweek: “You’re always looking for a reaction from your players. If you’ve won you’re looking for an even better performance and result; if you don’t you want them to bounce back in the following game.

“We got caught caught with a sucker punch last Saturday (Federico Macheda’s late winner).

“It could have been easy to change everybody, because we lost, or leave things because the the team played well.

“But for the Brighton game, I though it would be better to put out the team that we did. It worked a treat - except for that one lapse.”

Roger Johnson built on his largely sound home debut against Doncaster with an impressive show at Brighton, Miguel Llera has displaced Kamil Zayatte and is again staking his claim for a regular place; Reda Johnson is back as first-choice left back, and the return of Buxton has been welcomed by Jones.

“Lewis is a solid defender,” says the manager. “We brought in Jordan Spence; he’d not played a lot of football; he didn’t let anybody down.

“But Lewis is six years older; he has a bit more maturity and knowledge. We’ve missed his experience. He showed that, the other night.

“If it had been a young player who was playing after being out for a long time, you wouldn’t have got that performance from him.

“Lewis knows how to get himself through the game.”

Jones thinks the Owls could be 10 points better off if results had matched performance.

Looking towards tomorrow’s game, he says: “What we want to do is show the confidence we have at the moment, One or two are still fighting their game; hopefully they can take a lot of positives from from the other night. No-one knows why confidence just kicks in. It can be a pass, a shot or a goal, anything.

“I think there are one or two who getting back to what they’re capable of. They’re slowly getting there.

“The other night showed that when everybody is near their best, we’re a match for anybody in this division.

“On Tuesday we played a team who have double our wage bill and matched them.

“Our players ran their socks off. But we have a group of players here who haven’t reached the level we expect and they expect of themselves. We feel it’s a touch away. That’s how confident we are in them.

“No team we have played has been better than us.”

Jones also senses the beginnings of a return to form for Michail Antonio: “He got us the goal at Brighton: it was sheer pace and determination when he kept the ball in play, then hooked it across to Jeremy (Helan), who found Matty (Fryatt) in the box.”