Sheffield Wednesday: Lucas Joao can solve the Owls' striker shortage
Jack Hunt is banking on Lucas Joao to ease Wednesday's striker shortage, claiming his Owls teammate has finally adapted to the demands of English football.
With Fernando Forestieri and Gary Hooper definitely out and Steven Fletcher a major injury doubt due to a knee problem, Joao is set to lead the line in Berkshire.
The Portugal international, who moved to Hillsborough in July 2015, has failed to score in the Championship since February. His only goal this season came in EFL Cup.
“Any foreign player would be more experienced in the league in the second year,” Hunt told The Star. “I would love for Lucas to get a goal as I think that would boost him even more. That’s all he has missed from the last two games.”
Joao recently returned to action after almost three months on the sidelines due to a groin problem. The Portugal international worked well in tandem with Forestieri in Wednesday’s victories over Wolverhampton Wanderers and Preston North End.
Hunt said: “Lucas has been brilliant. He’s tired after the 60 minute mark but he’s been out for a long time.
“He’s picked up some niggly injuries which do affect people and their confidence. He has handled it very maturely and done a great job for the team.”
Wednesday are optimistic captain Glenn Loovens (dead leg) and Ross Wallace (back/hamstring) will be passed fit to play against a Reading side who are still smarting from their 5-0 thumping at Fulham last week.
“I was surprised at their result and it made our draw at Fulham look good,” said Hunt. “It just shows how unpredictable the league is and why it is the toughest league to get out of in the world. It’s not just me who thinks that. Others have said the same.
“I think with the fixture congestion that’s massive. It’s about having a good squad and utilising it well to get good results.”
Forestieri is banned for the Owls’ next three fixtures following the sraight red card he received against Preston for an off-the-ball incident with Ben Pearson.
Right-back Hunt said: “You see it all the time in football where the other team try to get your best player wound up and try to get a reaction out of them. I think that happened with Nando. He’s one of the best players in the league and people know he plays the game on the edge.
“If someone plays on the edge and retaliates, you do what you can to win. It is not cheating. I think against Preston Nando should have dealt with it better. The lad has provoked him and he has retaliated and it has cost us.”