Sheffield Wednesday: Stu refuses to pinpoint target

Kieran Lee faces his former boss, Paul Dickov
Kieran Lee faces his former boss, Paul Dickov
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Stuart Gray refuses to set a limit on the possibilities for the Owls during the remainder of the season.

He is more cautious than Oguchi Onyewu, who thinks a place in the play-offs is not out of the equation, but the manager’s goal remains “to finish as high as possible.”

The first milestone must be to make certain of avoiding the drop.

Gray declines to set a survival target because he believes that when one is achieved, complacency can creep in.

Fifty points has been traditionally regarded as the safety level but Peterborough went down last season on 54.

With Wednesday on 45, in 14th place, and with 10 games left, Gray says: “I’m a believer that if you set a points target and you reach it, complacency can possibly come in.

“I’ve always said let’s chip away and claw people back, which we’ve done; we’ve gone past Leeds, gone past Huddersfield. one incentive is to stay in front of those; the other is to drag Middlesbrough, Watford and Bournemouth in.”

Gray is happy that players have taken the view that merely staying up is not the only goal.

“I’m pleased with players comments when they’ve said we want to finish as high as possible,” he added.

Wednesday will open up an 11-point gap between themselves and fifth-from-bottom Doncaster if they win today.

The South Yorkshire derby pits Kieran Lee against the man who was his boss at Oldham, Paul Dickov.

Lee made a Bosman move in 2012 on a three-year deal and has starred this season after his return from hip surgery and introduction into midfield.

Dickov said: “Kieran Lee, I know really well. He was outstanding for me for a couple of seasons at Oldham. I’m delighted for him to be back playing.

“I’m not surprised he’s playing in there (in midfield). He was that good at right back for two years that we couldn’t move him. He won every accolade going from the fans and the club over those two seasons.

“Even though he was playing at right back, he was our best attacking player.

“Kieran was always going to be a midfielder, we knew that. It was purely the personnel and the situation at Oldham and you don’t take your best player out of a position where he is thriving.”

Lee has helped Gray to achieve one of his goals: to make Wednesday more of a unit when they are attacking and defending. The head coach explained: “What’s rewarding at the moment is the transition from defence to attack, and from attack to defence. I thought we did that fantastically against Birmingham and QPR.

“If we did lose the ball, we had the desire and effort to win it back. I’m a great believer in winning it around their 18-yard box rather than our own. That’s the same thought process as we go go to Doncaster.

“It’s filling spaces, closing down; if one man goes, the second man goes; it’s not a difficult thing to do; it’s just called hard work.

“I think in the past we might have been too open, whereas now we look more compact.”

Gray has sent Rhys McCabe on loan to Portsmouth for the rest of the season in the hope that games with the League Two outfit can boost his attributes and experience.

He explained: ““He needs to get out and play; he’s fallen down the pecking order - a talented boy, a gifted boy on the ball, but Rhys has to realise there are two sides to the game - with the ball and wthout the ball. He needs to learn that side. It will be good for him.

“Under 21 football isn’t the same as Saturday afternoon, three o’clock intensity. He’s gone to a good club, I know that as I’ve worked there myself, He will benefit and it will give him good experience.”