Lewis McGugan will be a key man for Sheffield Wednesday in their push to finish in the Championship’s top six, believes head coach Carlos Carvalhal.
The midfielder claimed a goal either side of half-time as the Owls slipped to a 3-2 FA Cup fourth round defeat away to League One side Shrewsbury Town.
It was just McGugan’s sixth start of the campaign and his first in a little over three months.
McGugan has struggled to command a regular first-team spot since the first international break when he failed to impress in the number 10 position.
The Nottingham-born player has netted five times in 12 appearances this term, with Carvalhal largely favouring Sam Hutchinson and Kieran Lee in the centre of midfield.
A hip injury over the Christmas period kept McGugan out of action for several weeks and he recently played in a behind-closed-doors match against Rotherham United to build up his match sharpness.
“Lewis played the way we expect him to play and I hope and expect that he can help us more in the second half of the season,” said Carvalhal.
McGugan was one of nine changes made by the Portuguese chief. He also handed a debut to left-back Joe Bennett, who is on loan from Aston Villa for the remainder of the campaign.
“Joe did well,” he said. “It was the first time he had played with us.
“Of course, the defensive connection was not perfect but he did well offensively and we believe he will do better in the future.”
Carvalhal rued the Owls’ sloppy second-half defending after watching his team slide to defeat for the first time in 2016.
“I was a little disappointed with the defending but it was the first time that back four had played together so it can happen sometimes that you lose a little bit of a connection,” he said.