Alan Biggs’ Sheffield Wednesday Column: The signs that show Owls stars have responded positively to Steve Bruce and his methods at Hillsborough
Casting the mutual misery of the Hillsborough derby to one side, you can’t get much better from a new manager than a seven match unbeaten run. Eight for Sheffield Wednesday in total.
It’s a robust record that has every chance of being extended at Derby County, where Frank Lampard’s much-vaunted side appear fragile despite ending a run of four successive defeats with a narrow win over Wigan.
This - and Tuesday’s visit to beleaguered Bolton - are games to win if the Owls are to close the six point gap on sixth place.
The ensuing visit of Blackburn Rovers also looks winnable. A window of opportunity; maybe the last.
No-one can, or should, detract from the work of Bruce’s management team in building on Lee Bullen’s initial turnaround.
But, if the ground is to be bridged, the accent has to be on attack. In both halves on Monday, whether it be Fernando Forestieri (injured and replaced) or George Boyd in support of Steven Fletcher, the Owls barely threatened.
Only Rolando Aarons down the left offered an attacking spark, albeit against a top team who were equally impotent going forward amid the understandable, if disappointing, slog fest of a family feud.
Such a pity that Lucas Joao has been sidelined. Simply for presence alongside Fletcher, he contributed to the recent 3-1 victory over Swansea.
Wednesday were actually even more impressive - with Forestieri in place of Joao and operating deeper - in beating Brentford three days later.
However, the burden on the warrior-like Fletcher is becoming too intense. He needs more support for the side to benefit fully from his exceptional leadership of the line.
Wednesday have the players, but too many are injured - to the consternation of Bruce who admits: “Big players being out is the reason I’m here.”
It adds to a picture of Wednesday needing the summer to address these and other concerns.
Huge credit, though, to the midfield and back four - whole side, really - for the Owls becoming a much more disciplined and solid unit.
Eight matches undefeated has seen only three goals conceded. That’s more than a start towards better times ahead.
Centre backs Tom Lees, the skipper, and Michael Hector have established a good centre-back partnership, while Liam Palmer, whether right back or left, has been simply outstanding. Great to hear word from Bruce of what would be a deserved Scotland call-up.
Refreshing also to see a home-produced player, often under-appreciated, getting the credit he deserves.
It’s another sign that players generally have responded positively to Bruce and his methods.