Sheffield Wednesday: Gray seeks meaner defending

Owls boss Stuart Gray
Owls boss Stuart Gray
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Stuart Gray is a bit of a perfectionist.

He is happy his Sheffield Wednesday side have kicked off their pre-season programme by registering two victories and hitting five goals.

But, by the same token, Gray is demanding the Owls shore things up defensively following the strike the team gave away in Friday’s friendly success at Bury.

“I was disappointed we conceded a goal from a set- play,” said the Wednesday boss. “We need to tighten up. I’m pleased we’ve picked up two good wins and had two good workouts.

“But we’ve got to stop giving the ball away in dangerous areas and inviting pressure on ourselves. We did it far too often last year where we gave silly free-kicks away around our 18-yard box. It allows the opposition to put a free ball into our penalty area. We got caught out versus Bury.”

Jacques Maghoma, Atdhe Nuhiu and Giles Coke netted in Wednesday’s 3-1 win over Bury, but Gray is calling on the team to be more ruthless in front of goal.

He said: “The problem we had in the first half was we didn’t really work the goalkeeper. We kept missing the target. Three or four shots were dragged wide and I can’t remember their keeper making a save.

“When we moved the ball quickly in the second half, our quality showed in the end.

“The only thing we need to tidy up is that final pass.”

Gray was particularly pleased with the third goal. Wednesday carved Bury open on the counter-attack, with Jeremy Helan releasing Shakers old boy Giles Coke, who made a lovely overlap before firing a shot past Shwan Jalal.

“It was great passing and a good goal,” said Gray.

Kamil Zayatte returned to action at York, having shaken off a long-standing ankle problem. The centre-back partnered Joe Mattock in the second half, getting 45 minutes under his belt.

“I thought Kamil and Joe complemented each other well,” said Gray. “The same could be said of Sam [Hutchinson] and Glenn [Loovens] in the first half.

“I’m getting a little bit of competition but we still need strength in depth.”

Gray’s men jetted out to Slovenia on Saturday to begin their pre-season training camp. They take on top-flight Russian side FC Arsenal Tula in a friendly on Wednesday before returning to England this Thursday.

Gray, who has confirmed he is running the rule over two trialists, a centre-back and a forward, said: “The objective of pre-season is to get minutes into the players’ legs.

“Slovenia is a team-bonding session but the players will be working very hard. We just need to get their fitness levels up.

“We have to keep that winning mentality going. I know there are no points being given out but I prefer going on the bus with a win rather than a defeat.”

Keeper Chris Kirkland was left out of the match-day squad last Friday after suffering concussion in training last week.