Sheffield Wednesday: Gray’s mean backline close in on club-record

Stuart Gray
Stuart Gray
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Sheffield Wednesday will be bidding to equal their club record of 17 clean sheets in a league season when they entertain under-achieving Fulham this weekend.

The Owls boast the second meanest defence in the Championship, having conceded 34 times in 36 fixtures. Only Middlesbrough (26) have shipped in fewer goals.

If Wednesday blunt Fulham and Wolves’ forward lines in the next two matches, Stuart Gray’s men will surpass the previous record of 17 clean sheets set by Jack Charlton’s team 36 years ago. Indeed, the Owls have recorded an impressive 18 shut-outs in all competitions.

Head coach Gray told The Star: “We’ve kept 16 clean sheets and that’s a fantastic achievement but we’ve got to stick the ball in the net at the other end a little bit more, especially at home.”

With skipper Glenn Loovens and Jose Semedo sidelined by injury, you could have forgiven Wednesday if they had struggled to pick up positive results without two of their most experienced players. However, the team have coped admirably without the pair and Gray has praised the squad’s togetherness.

“We’ve got some big characters missing but the guys who have come in have done well,” he said. “The boys just don’t know when they are beaten.”

Gray hopes Wednesday have learned from the defensive mistakes they made against Blackburn Rovers in their last Hillsborough outing. Jordan Rhodes and Adam Henley punished slack marking to put Rovers two nil up after 26 minutes. Those strikes left the Owls with too much to do, although they reduced the deficit after the interval through substitute Chris Maguire.

“We had a 10 minute spell against Blackburn where we gave them a two goal lead,” said Gray. “We can’t allow slow starts like that and end up having to chase a game.

“I’m still a little annoyed we didn’t get anything out of the Blackburn game as I thought we did enough to get a draw at the end.

Wednesday take on fourth-from-bottom Fulham, relegated from the Premier League last season, chasing a fourth victory from their last five matches. Saturday’s hard-fought triumph at Blackpool lifted Gray’s men up to 10th in the table with 10 games remaining.

The gap between the Owls and the top-six is 13 points, but Gray refuses to give up hope of a late promotion tilt.

“Until it is mathematically impossible, we will keep going as there are enough games and points to play for,” he stressed. “My challenge to the players is let’s see where this run can take us.

“We’ve got to keep believing. I want us to finish as high as possible.

“I don’t want the season to fizzle away and the players won’t allow that to happen.”

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