Sheffield Wednesday: Gray glad to have Kirkland back

Friendly rivalry between Chris Kirkland and David Cotterill at the end of the Doncaster derby
Friendly rivalry between Chris Kirkland and David Cotterill at the end of the Doncaster derby
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Owls boss Stuart Gray is glad to have Chris Kirkland helping the club’s quest to rise up the table and their attempt to stop Brighton winning at Hillsborough for the first time.

Gray also has every confidence in Damian Martinez but values the experience and calming influence of Kirkland.

It was the reason why Kirkland was recalled to face Doncaster last Saturday though Martinez had filled in capably while the senior man was out for four games with a calf problem.

Kirkland made two first-class saves on Saturday and will be the last line of defence as the promotion-hunting Seagulls strive to pull off a Hillsborough victory for the first time in 14 league and cup attempts.

The Owls have won seven of the home meetings and drawn six since rivalry between the clubs began in 1914.

Gray said: “I’m pleased Chris is back. You want that competition. It was a tough call bringing him back. But it was a local derby and a I just wanted his experience and calming influence at the back.”

Kirkland’s return could not prevent the Owls losing 1-0 at Doncaster as Gray saw the team miss a chance and then lack quality in their passing and crossing at vital moments, with him also believing that Rovers made the better use of a bobbly pitch. “We didn’t get to the standards we reached against Birmingham and QPR but sometimes you just have to grind a result out.

“But we put that disappointment behind us and go again, against a good side, against whom we had a huge disappointment down at Brighton.

“We were 1-0 and in the 90th minute they got an equaliser.”

Matt Fryatt scored in the first half and midfielder Keith Andrews netted for the home team.

Gray added: “There are challenges for the players; some of them are playing for new contracts. I keep saying to the squad ‘let’s finish as high as possible.’

“We regroup and go against Brighton.”

Wednesday are looking for a fourth home win on the trot.

“When you lose away you just pressure on yourself to win your next home game,” added Gray. “We’ve got a tough game against Brighton and another one on Saturday (against Watford).

“One thing I say to the players is that we’ve got to get the crowd going, and I think we’ve done that, in getting the results that we’ve got. I say to the players we’ve got to turn up and perform in every game.

“The opposition get a lift from playing here but we don’t fear anybody. We’ve got to start getting back-to-back results away, as well.”

With Brighton bidding to bounce back from a 2-0 home defeat by Ipswich, their manager Oscar Garcia said: “Sheffield Wednesday have improved a lot but we have another motivation, to win for the first time there and I want all the players focused on this game.

“We already have enough motivation to try and beat them, but being the first team to win there is an added one.”

The Seagulls’ squad includes on-loan Manchester United wide man Jesse Lingard, who scored all four of the goals on his Birmingham debut in the Owls’ 4-1 defeat at St Andrew’s.

He has played five games for eighth-placed Brighton and has yet to score for them: “We’re aware of him but they have other good players,” said Gray. “They’ll be looking for a reaction after a home blip on Saturday. That sixth spot looks wide open.

“But we’re looking forward to the game. It’s important we impose our game and win our battles.”