Owls looking strong as Stuart goes for his first ‘hat-trick’

Sheffield Wednesday's Glenn Loovens (left) brings down Brighton's Kazenga LuaLua (right) during the Sky Bet Championship match at the AMEX Stadium, Brighton.
Sheffield Wednesday's Glenn Loovens (left) brings down Brighton's Kazenga LuaLua (right) during the Sky Bet Championship match at the AMEX Stadium, Brighton.
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Scoring goals, keeping clean sheets and winning matches breeds confidence.

At present, Wednesday look a very attractive, accomplished side. You can tell Stuart Gray’s squad are nice and relaxed, enjoying their football and have been given a licence to express themselves.

It is important not to go overboard after two fixtures but some of their passing and movement off the ball has been of the highest standard. Notts County and, to a lesser extent, Brighton could not live with their high tempo, pressing style.

Several weeks ago, Andy Kalinins, the Owls performance director, told me: “Stuart doesn’t want the team to sit back and wait for the counter-attack. He wants a fit team to chase players down and win the ball back in high areas like we saw in the World Cup.” Gray’s troops are carrying out and executing his plans with precision.

But things can turn around very quickly in football.

It will be fascinating to see what side and formation Gray decides to play against Derby tomorrow. Wednesday may have picked up two positive results but this will comfortably be their toughest assignment to date.

Will Gray revert back to the 4-3-3 system which served them so well at Brighton or will he stick with 4-4-2 that proved successful in midweek? Gray prefers to play two strikers in home matches but, given the quality Derby, the 2014 Championship play-off finalists, possess in midfield, he may have to seriously consider matching them up in the middle of the park.

Defensively the Owls have looked strong, with new recruit Tom Lees delivering two assured performances alongside skipper Glenn Loovens. But will their back four be able to keep players of the calibre of Chris Martin, Will Hughes and Jeff Hendrick at bay?

For the first time since the end of last season, Gray boasts an array of attacking options, with new £800,000 forward Stevie May in contention to make his debut, having sat out the County tie due to suspension. Atdhe Nuhiu and Gary Madine opened their accounts on Tuesday but there is a possibility neither of them will start.

The Owls have never won three games in a row under Gray’s leadership. Victory over Derby would cap off a perfect week.