Sheffield Wednesday: Depleted Owls eye back-to-basics approach

Liam Palmer

Liam Palmer

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Stability can breed success.

One of Sheffield Wednesday’s big strengths this season has been their strong defence.

At the beginning of the 2014/15 campaign, goalkeeper Keiren Westwood consistently had the same back four in front of him in Liam Palmer, Glenn Loovens, Tom Lees and Joe Mattock.

That has not been the case in recent weeks as the Owls’ injuries have piled up. There is a strong chance Palmer, Loovens, Mattock and Claude Dielna will all miss the final three weeks of the Championship season.

The disruption in the backline has certainly hindered Wednesday’s bid to equal a club-record 17 league clean sheets.

Lees, who is expected to be partnered by Kamil Zayatte for today’s Hillsborough tussle with Charlton Athletic, told The Star: “There has been a lot of changes and they have had an impact on the team.

“The full-backs and even the two in central midfield in front us have been changing. We have not really had a settled team and that is bound to affect things.”

Ex-Leeds United player Lees has echoed the sentiments of Owls boss Stuart Gray, insisting the team must shore things up defensively to cement a top-half Championship finish.

“Keeping clean sheets is the foundation for any good team,” he conceded. “It gives you something to work off.

“I really want to match the club-record for clean sheets and, if we don’t, I’m going to be annoyed for the eight weeks we are not playing over the summer.

“It has been really disappointing that we have not been keeping clean sheets over the last few weeks.

“Huddersfield was one of the most frustrating games I have been involved in in a while as I thought we limited their three strikers to very little so we were disappointed to concede a goal late on.

“The defence is what we have built our success off so we need to get back to keeping clean sheets.”

The 24-year-old is unhappy Wednesday’s results have tailed off in recent weeks. He felt after an encouraging first half of the season that the team had an opportunity to push for a top-six place.

He said: “Our problem has been consistency and keeping our best team fit.

“You know what you are going to get from the good teams - the ones who are in the play-offs - every week and we haven’t been able to do that this season.

“We have not reached the standards we set ourselves for a few weeks and the results reflect that. I don’t think we have reached the heights we are capable of and have got what we have deserved from some pretty average performances.

“We need to respond, get back on track and not let the season fizzle out. We don’t want to let ourselves down.”

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