IT has been a tale of two matches for Neil Mellor.
He bullied and harassed Tranmere Rovers into submission 10 days ago and was the catalyst behind Sheffield Wednesday’s second successive home win.
Mellor, on a season-long loan deal from Preston North End, terrorised Rovers backline throughout, creating the opening three goals before deservedly claiming his 17th goal of the campaign late on from an acute angle.
But, starved of service and unable to influence proceedings at league leaders Brighton and Hove Albion last weekend, Mellor was a peripheral figure as the Owls slumped to a 2-0 defeat at the Withdean Stadium.
Manager Gary Megson said: “The problem we have got is consistency. Neil looked every bit a £5 million striker against Tranmere. He made three, scored one and played terrific. He looked a top, top centre forward and yet a few days later looked nothing like that so we have got to get that consistency about every player.”
Mellor has one year left to run of his deal at parent club Preston but he has hinted he would be interested in a permanent switch to Wednesday.
On the possibility of signing Mellor at the end of the season, Megson said: “I don’t know. It is not a case of whether you can do something long term. If he going to play every week like he played against Tranmere, then I would be asking Milan (Mandaric) for big money and saying let’s get him in. If he is going to play like he did against Brighton, then we won’t be doing that. It is up to Neil. But everybody has got to perform and they have got to perform week in week out.”
Both Mellor and right-back Jon Otsemobor have started the last three matches as Megson’s searched for a winning formula.
“Jon came into the team and played terrific in his first game back against Colchester but his last couple of performances have not hit that level so he has got to get himself back up there,” said Megson.
Creating a winning culture is Megson’s target and he is demanding a reaction against Hartlepool tomorrow after being outplayed for long spells at Brighton.
“Winning games is what matters,” he said. “Brighton have a lad from West Bromwich Albion in Chris Wood who is 6ft 2in and he is a big unit. They have got another big unit in Glenn Murray and they have got a team capable of battling, passing, are really enthusiastic and a team who have a lot of quality.
“They can score goals from set-pieces and corners so they have a lot of strings to their bow and that is the kind of team who I am looking for.
“There are some teams who play some really nice, attractive football at the bottom of the table but winning is what it is all about.”
Rob Jones could be recalled at the back having recovered from concussion. The giant defender, on-loan from Scunthorpe United, may step in for Reda Johnson, who has a slight thigh problem.
Goalkeeper Nicky Weaver, who recently signed a new two-year contract, has started training again following his groin problem but is unlikely to be risked.
Wednesday are seeking a third win on the spin against Pools this season having thumped them 5-0 in the league and 4-1 in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in November.
OWLS: O’Donnell or Nicholls; Ostemobor, R Johnson or R Jones, Batth, Buxton; Sedgwick or Teale, O’Connor, O’Brien or Miller, J Johnson; Mellor, Morrison or Madine (4-4-2).
HARTLEPOOL: Flinders; Haslam, Collins, Hartley, Horwood; McSweeney, Murray, Gamble, Sweeney, Monkhouse; Boyd (4-5-1).
Gavin Ward (Surrey): The 28-year-old has officiated in 29 matches in the 2010/11 campaign, booked 83 players and shown three red cards. This will be the first time Ward has taken charge of a Wednesday match.