‘You’ve got to be more on the ball!’

Horror show: Gary Megson can't bear to watch against Brighton.
Horror show: Gary Megson can't bear to watch against Brighton.
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GARY Megson, the Sheffield Wednesday manager, wants his players to take care of the ball better.

After two polished and professional home performances against Colchester United and Tranmere Rovers, the Owls were brought back down to earth with an almighty thud at runaway league leaders Brighton and Hove Albion.

A first-half penalty from Chris Wood and a glorious long-range effort from the lively Elliott Bennett inflicted a 19th defeat in 41 matches on Wednesday.

Although Megson’s charges are not mathematically safe from relegation, it is unlikely the Owls will be dragged into a battle for survival.

With three of the final five matches at Hillsborough, against Hartlepool United, Swindown Town and Exeter City, the odds are the South Yorkshire outfit will pick up enough points to secure a mid-table finish.

Nonetheless, the manner of the defeat to Brighton upset Megson. He told the press corps afterwards that it was “the poorest” performance he had seen since succeeding Alan Irvine.

“I thought Southampton were a good side but Brighton were even better,” Megson admitted. “They are not at the top of the league for nothing.

“I think if you just took the game on the performance I don’t think we would have one player who would get in Brighton’s team.”

To make Wednesday major promotion contenders, Megson acknowledges the team need to retain possession better against the top opposition in the division.

He said: “They (Brighton) looked comfortable in possession, hard-working, but the biggest thing is that they had a great honesty about them. Passing the ball is only half the job; you’ve got to support each other.

“We have told our players that they have got to have four options every time they get the ball - left, right, forward and back. At times against Brighton, we didn’t look like we had one option.

“There were times when we got the ball back and we gave it away with the first pass. The support play was not good enough.”

Megson reckons hard work, coupled with a desire to stop giving away possession cheaply, can lead to a revival on the pitch.

He said: “You have got to close down and deny people space but when you get the ball it is important you don’t lose it quickly.

“It is like being a waiter; you can be the best waiter in the world but unless you have got a table to put it on then nobody will eat it.”

As expected, Megson denied on Monday the misconduct charge levelled at him by the Football Association (FA) following his post-match comments to the media about referee Steve Rushton in the wake of the 1-1 draw at Dagenham and Redbridge last month.

Megson, sent to the stands during the match for his protests towards Rushton, claimed the official had been influenced by a conversation with Daggers boss John Still at half-time. He went on to describe Rushton’s second half as “one-eyed at best”.

The FA have granted Megson a personal hearing over his charge. They will reveal the date of the hearing today.

If the FA rule that he questioned the referee’s fairness, Megson could be handed with a touchline ban.

The Owls boss admitted an initial charge of improper conduct for swearing at the officials on the touchline and was fined £1,000.