Sheffield Wednesday: Maguire bounces back to form

Lewis Buxton, Oguchi Onyewu and Caolan Lavery celebrate with Leon Best after his goal against QPR
Lewis Buxton, Oguchi Onyewu and Caolan Lavery celebrate with Leon Best after his goal against QPR

Stuart Gray prefers to praise his team as a whole when it is merited, rather than single out players.

But he has to admit that various individuals have been doing the business.

Gray was not going to argue about the growing sharpness from Leon Best, the soundness of centre-back partners Oguchi Onyewu and Glenn Loovens, the exceptional pace of Jeremy Helan, work-rate of Atdhe Nuhiu or the midfield impact of Sam Hutchinson and Kieran Lee - to throw in a few examples of recent weeks.

Chris Maguire was another earning praise and headlines for a time - until he was dropped to the bench at Wigan.

It raised the question of whether his purple patch was over.

Maguire has answered by playing an important in the victories over Birmingham and QPR: his penalty (and seventh goal for the club this season) and creativity were important elements of Tuesday’s 3-0 win.

Gray said Maguire’s swift return to form has been excellent: “I thought he was excellent the other night. the same with Liam Palmer (who was left out for the Birmingham game).

“Sometimes players need a kick up the backside or a breather, by coming out of the team. That’s the response you want.

“Nobody wants to be left out at the moment, That competition is healthy. Even the subs’ bench, I feel that with the quality in depth that we’ve got now, we’ll kick on for the next 10 games.”

While Maguire was on the bench at Wigan, Best took on the penalty task and saw his effort saved.

The on-loan striker has atoned for that failure by scoring in the last two games. Says Gray: “I think he’s now up to the pace of the game; he looks stronger, he’s been a focal point, his ball retention has been excellent, he was involved in two goals the other night. He’s scoring and enjoying his football.”

The only slight worry is that Blackburn can recall him at 24 hours’ notice if necessary.

Fellow loan player Adedeji Oshilaja has had his deal extended to the end of the season and is back in training after his toe injury.

Sam Hutchinson is in contention too, for tomorrow’s match at Doncaster, after recovering from his knee problem, and may displace Palmer in midfield.

However, there will be room for an extra midfielder if Gray adopts the away tactic of fielding just one up front, which would almost certainly be Best, with Atdhe Nuhiu dropping out.

Chris Kirkland’s chances of a recall depend on how he reacts to today’s return to full training. Although competition for places is healthy, Gray is not ruling out another dip into the loan market before it shuts next Thursday.

It will depend on whether new injuries occur tomorrow or in the Brighton home game on Tuesday.

Gray is also aware that Miguel Llera and Maguire are on eight bookings and will be banned for two games if they pick up two more before April 13

He also wants to get two or three more youngsters out on loan, to follow Rhys McCabe’s switch to Portsmouth, and will decide before Thursday whether or not Gary Madine can go on loan.