Sheffield Wednesday: Skipper relishes Llera link-up

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PLAYER-of-the-Year contender Anthony Gardner claims his partnership with Miguel Llera is flourishing at the heart of Sheffield Wednesday’s rearguard because they have finally gelled.

Both Gardner and Llera starred in the Owls’ 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace, a result which edged Dave Jones charges closer to Championship safety. The duo have played integral roles in Wednesday’s revival.

Gardner, the Owls captain, and Llera have formed an effective combination and helped shore things up at the back. In the last 11 matches Gardner and Llera have been paired together, the Owls have recorded six clean sheets.

When asked about playing alongside fans’ favourite Llera, Gardner said: “I am enjoying it. Miguel is a character on and off the pitch.

“Sometimes he needs a little word in his ear but we have got a good understanding now. These things take time. You don’t just gell straight away. You have to play and train together to build up an understanding and I feel like we have started to get that over the last couple of months.”

A thigh injury ruled Gardner out of the goalless draw at Birmingham City a week ago, handing Martin Taylor the chance to establish himself as a first-team regular. The former Watford player produced a solid display, but Gardner returned against former club Palace after shaking off his thigh niggle.

Taylor dropped to the bench and it is clear Jones regards Gardner and Llera as his first-choice pairing.

Depending on what division the Owls are competing in next season, Jones will probably look to reshape his back four. Llera and Lewis Buxton are out of contract in the summer while the Wednesday hierarchy will also have a decision to make on Leeds United loanee Danny Pugh.