DAVE Jones admits that the pressure is mounting on his team now they have faltered at the fourth-from-last obstacle in the great promotion chase.
The Owls’ draw at Colchester on Grand National Day leaves them with even more ground to make up on strong-running United.
Jone is undaunted by the prospect of going into the play-offs if the Blades cannot be overtaken. “If it’s got to be that route, then we’ll go that way,” he says.
“If you look back 10 or 11 games you were probably talking of losing out because of the games that were lost.
“Now we’ve been in with a shout but we have to rely on them faltering; that’s what it’s been like since the day I walked in.
“You have to rely on them faltering - but there’s a danger you might do, as well.”
Colchester at first glance had always looked a tricky fixture, and the 10th-placed U’s’ stalemate with Wednesday contributes towards a remarkable record.
During the last two months, John Ward’s side have played seven of the nine teams who are above them and have come through those games unbeaten, including a 1-1 draw with United.
No wonder Jones refused to berate his team and reflected on a hard game - while also pointing out where they might have done better.
“We had some great possession. We showed quality in getting into the right areas but didn’t show it in the final ball once we got there,” he said. “We were trying to score from positions where maybe an extra pass would have helped us.
“We still had chances which on another day would probably fly in.”
Jones’ thoughts included some wayward stuff from Michail Antonio and Jermaine Johnson, who was lively in the second half but always wanted to cut inside and have shots that were either blocked or off target.
Nile Ranger fluffed a great chance in the first half from a ball from Antonio, somehow knocking the ball back across goal: “I don’t know how he missed it,” reflected Jones. “He says it bobbled up and hit his shin.”
Gary Madine shot from long range when Antonio was unmarked to his right, and the striker had a far-post header from a Chris Lines cross which he could have got on target or steered across goal to the unmarked Ranger but sent over the bar.
Lines also had an opportunity but volleyed weakly.
It was an inauspicious return to Colchester for Antonio, despite the continual threat of his long throws:. His loss of possession on the edge of his own box resulted in the U’s’ early goal, jabbed home from close range by Ian Henderson and the first that the Owls have conceded in five games.
The back four were mostly
with Mark Beevers making another decent stab at the left-back position, and Miguel Llera producing another goal, slotting home a Lines free-kick from a few yards out. He was also not too far away with a couple of second-half headers.
There were precious few threats from the home side - but their workrate and stubborness showed why they have caused the leading pack problems.
There was no place for Rob Jones, even on the bench, because the manager felt that, with Beevers playing, he also provided cover for the centre-halves, if a change had to be made, so there was no need to have another centre-back among the subs.
Jones feels that the two games in three days over Easter took a lot out of his team and he refuses to berate the players for Saturday’s result.
“I’m not having a go at them. They did well to come back,” he said.
“The players have worked so hard. Sometimes when you work too hard, you’re erratic.
“I won’t criticise them. It’s difficult. The pressure is mounting. We gave it a right go. When we needed that break, the linesman got it wrong.”
He was talking about a disallowed goal in the last few minutes. There was no general fuss at the time, when Antonio went through to score and the flag went up. But film apparently confirms Jones’ view that the winger was level with the last defender.
“Antonio was onside,” said Jones. “That’s a big decision. I could see it. The linesman’s got to see it as well. I told him ‘he’s not offside’. He wouldn’t believe me.
“Those are the fine lines.”
Wednesday can now only try to get back to winning and hope that United stumble.
We do now know that it is impossible for the Owls to catch Charlton, and that they are certain to finish second or third, with MK Dons and Huddersfield 10 points behind.