Sheffield Wednesday: Owls try to soften Connor blow

Caolan Lavery has been on the bench for the last two games
Caolan Lavery has been on the bench for the last two games

Sunderland’s reluctance to let Connor Wickham return to Hillsborough means that more responsibility is likely to fall on the men he has left behind.

The Owls have signed Benik Afobe for the rest of the season and will be in the loan market for an additional striker after it opens on Friday, but will still place challenges in front of men such as Atdhe Nuhiu and Caolan Lavery – and perhaps Chris Maguire.

The man who scored the winner against Barnsley has been used mostly on the right side of midfield but ideally likes to play as a central striker.

His five goals in eight games bear testimony to his finishing ability, and a switch up front for him could be one of the options for Stuart Gray.

Nuhiu has scored only three goals this season, and the club will hope for an improvement from the big Austrian.

Lavery burst on to the scene with his two goals in the 6-0 win against Leeds and was then lively at Burnley and in the FA Cup tie at Rochdale but has been on the bench for the last two games.

With Hull showing no sign of letting Matty Fryatt return to Hillsborough, Michail Antonio injured and Jermaine Johnson suspended for four games, the matter of firepower is one of the issues high on Gray’s agenda.

Maybe Wickham will still be back one day. Emergency loan deals can be done from this Friday until late March.

The striker has expressed a wish to return, but that now looks like depending not only on whether Sunderland can spare him, but on whether some other club persuade the Black Cats to let him join them. Gus Poyet has confirmed that Wickham has many admirers.

Steven Fletcher’s Achilles tendon problem is worrying Poyet. The club will have to decide whether he has surgery or can carry on with careful management of the problem.

Poyet has signed Argentina international Nacho Scocco for £4m but he is short of match fitness.

John Sheridan is another manager with a striker concern – his Plymouth team are short of goals and he hoped to get Lavery back on loan if Wickham returned to Hillsborough, but the ex-Owls star is now looking elsewhere:

“While they (Wednesday) are short of strikers, I don’t think there is much chance of us getting him (Lavery).”

A very young Wednesday side, containing several 16-year-olds, lost 2-0 to Mansfield at Middlewood in the Central League Cup, the goals coming from experienced forwards Ross Dyer and Ben Hutchinson.